The Loh Down On Science

Eaten Alive!

microscopy.co.uk

The life cycle of Entamoeba histolytica

Ew!  This amoeba does what to your intestine?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science. 

Meet Entamoeba histolytica, a common parasite in developing countries.  It colonizes the colon, and actively kills intestinal cells.  It can lead to massive ulcers and even death.  Not nice!  But how does it do its damage? Unknown ... until now

Enter Katherine Ralston, from the University of Virginia.  She mixed amoebas and living human cells together under a microscope that had an attached camera.  Within a minute, as she photographed, each amoeba latched onto a cell.  But wait!  It didn’t kill it.  Rather, it just used creepy fingerlike protrusions to push into, pinch off, and engulf a piece of the cell.  And the victim?  It survived!  But then the amoeba took another bite.  And another.  They literally eat us alive!  And when a cell did die?  What was left of its corpse was simply tossed aside and ignored.  These bugs prefer fresh flesh!  EEEK!

So if you're traveling, drink boiled water, and have a nice day.  And you’re welcome.

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The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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