The exact moment the COVID-19 virus infects a cell has been captured in a series of images by a team of Brazilian researchers using a powerful electron microscope.
Experts from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Brazil captured the amazing pictures while studying the ways the coronavirus replicates and spreads.
In a series of images you can see multiple particles of the deadly virus go from attempting to enter a cell to being seen inside the cell.
Researchers used a tool that allows them to magnify objects up to two million times their normal size, allowing them to get deep inside the cell and see the virus.
The Brazilian research institution, Fiocruz, said the cells used in the study came from the African green monkey – not from humans.
Cell cultures from the African green monkey, a species of primate found in Sudan and Ethiopia, are often used in laboratory tests, according to Fiocruz.
The most important image of the three captured by the researchers in Brazil shows the moment COVID-19 begins to enter the cell itself.
In one of the images you can see several particles of the virus trying to infect the cell’s cytoplasm – that is where it keeps the genetic material.
In another image viral particles have infected the cell – the point at which in a human they would have said to have caught the virus.
‘Scientists used viruses isolated from samples collected from the nose and throat of an infected patient,’ the team wrote.
‘Infected cells are then taken to a laboratory where they are inspected under a an electron microscope – to capture the moment of infection.’
Dark spots in the images captured by the researchers show the SARS-COV-2 virus.
Research institutions around the world are studying the virus in close detail in order to try and find out how to stop it.
There is currently no cure or vaccine for the virus, which originated in Wuhan, China and is thought to have jumped to humans from bats.
As it is a completely new virus researchers need as much information about the pathogen as possible in order to produce a vaccine.
The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.
Details of the first images of the moment of infection are on the Fiocruz website.