Vote for your winner of the Infectious Images Photo competition

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The judges have had their say and now its up to you to choose the winner!
If you’d like to find out more about the story behind these photos then take a look at our interviews with the finalists below and once you have chosen – cast your vote!

The winner will receive:

  • US$100 Amazon voucher
  • The winning image will be printed on our 2019 conference bags
  • Open access publication fee discounted by 50% on next submitted paper to Future Microbiology or Future Virology
  • A year’s complimentary subscription for your institution/organization to Future Microbiology and Future Virology

We look forward to seeing the outcome!

  • Tree Lights from Paula Camille Ingalla

    First, could you introduce yourself and where you are currently based/your current role?

    I am Paula Camille Ingalla, a graduate student of Masters in Microbiology at the University of the Philippines Diliman. At the same time, I am also working as a University Research Associate in the same university. I help in the preservation and maintenance of the microbial culture collection in the Microbial Research and Services Laboratory at the Natural Sciences and Research Institute. I was also a part of the recently concluded project called Discovery and Development of Health Products wherein we isolate microorganisms from marine sponges for the extraction of possible bioactive metabolites that can be used as antagonists/antimicrobials for the ESKAPE pathogens. My research interests include medical microbiology with particular focus on its application to immunology.

    What began your interest in the field?

    I’ve always found nature beautiful and fascinating. From the flowers and trees to animals such as butterflies, bees and birds, everything is interrelated. It was like a whole new world has been opened up to me when I took my first microbiology subject when I was taking my Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, making me choose this field as my major. By working in academia after graduating, I delved deeper into the biotechnological applications of microbiology, especially in the medical field. It was solidified after I took an immunology graduate class. My professor’s enthusiasm regarding the subject matter inspired me to be in the field. The importance of microbial interactions with the overall health of an individual and how viral and bacterial infections spread through the body are just some of the areas that fascinate me.

    Could you give us a brief background to this photograph and how it ties to your research?

    The photograph I took was actually part of a project from my microbial genetics class in the university. As microbiologists, we were asked to prepare art on agar medium using microorganisms and to explain biochemical reactions. I thought that one of the core foundations of biology is evolution and what we perceive today is a collection of the interactions between the living things on earth, shaped by natural selection and adaptation. That is the beauty of nature. I wanted to combine the subject matters that I am passionate about. Using clinical isolate of Salmonella and ubiquitous bacteria E. coli, I depicted an imagery of nature.

    What message would you like people to take away from your image?

    Evolution in nature is not only found in the things visible to the eye but also through the lens, as proven by microorganisms. Beauty does come in more ways than one can imagine. Simplicity and complexity can both be beautiful and that is the case with microorganisms. As tiny as they are, their effects ripple.

  • Bacterial Star from Ioannis Passaris

    First, could you introduce yourself and where you are currently based/your current role?

    My name is Ioannis Passaris and I am a post-doctoral research associate at the University of York (UK).

    What began your interest in the field?

    My interest in microbiology was sparked quite late during my undergraduate. But once this happened, I wanted to know a lot more about this fascinating micro-cosmos!

    Could you give us a brief background to this photograph and how it ties into your research?

    This image shows a bacterial colony of two fluorescently labelled strains: one labelled with a GFP fluorescent protein (false colored blue) and the other labelled with an mCherry fluorescent protein (false colored yellow). Both strains were mixed at equal ratio, spotted on an agar plate and left to incubate for 1 night at 37°C. This gives the bacteria the time to grow and expand on the agar and at the same time to interact with each other. This picture shows that the two strains have organized differently during growth and have spatially segregated, with the yellow strain dominating the center of the colony but having difficulties to take over the outer part of the colony, which is dominated by the blue strain. This is the result of differences in growth rates, cell sizes and contact-dependent toxin delivery systems between the two strains. In this post-doc I investigate the effect of these toxin delivery systems, which require intimate cell-to-cell contact, on the spatial organization of bacterial populations, using amongst others these microscopy pictures.

    What message would you like people to take away from your image?

    Just like people, bacteria interact constantly with each other but use different ‘languages’ to get their point across.

  • Bacteria, Biofilms and Black Carbon from Louise Corscadden

    First, could you introduce yourself and where you are currently based/your current role?

    I am a third year PhD student at the University of Leicester (UK).

    What began your interest in the field?

    My interests in microbiology began during my undergraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences at St George’s University of London (UK) with my very supportive project supervisor Professor Jodi Lindsey. I then went on to do a Master’s degree in Medical Microbiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (UK) with a number of highly inspiring lecturers. Finally, I took my current position at the University of Leicester in investigating the effect of air pollution on pathogenic respiratory bacteria. Environmental microbiology with a focus on air pollution is a relatively new and unusual field; this drew me to the position.

    Could you give us a brief background to this photograph and how it ties into your research?

    The basis of my research is investigating the effect of air pollution on bacterial behavior. Currently, the annual mortality rate for air pollution associated pneumonia is approximately 1 million [1]. What we see in the image on the left is Acinetobacter baumannii forming a biofilm structure. Forming this communal structure is believed to aid in colonization of A. baumannii in the host, particularly in the respiratory tract. On the right is the same biofilm structure but grown with black carbon; a major component of particulate matter air pollution. We believe that air pollution, because it is inhaled into the respiratory tract, will come into contact with respiratory bacteria and effect colonization and behavior. To support this hypothesis, past work in my group found an increased rate of dissemination from the nasopharynx to the lung of mice when bacteria are inhaled alongside black carbon [2].

    What message would you like people to take away from your image?

    I would like people to see the possible hidden repercussions of living in a urbanized world. That it is highly likely that this interaction between pathogenic bacteria and air pollution is currently occurring within many of us. Air pollution is an immediate problem that effects the majority of the world’s population and as the myriad of different areas of research show, we are only just realizing the many different aspects of our health that we put in jeopardy just by simply living in our current environments.

    1. Hussey, SJK et al. Air pollution alters Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae biofilms, antibiotic tolerance and colonization. Environ. Microbiol. 19(5), 1868–1880. (2017)
    2. WHO. 7 million premature deaths annually linked to air pollution. www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/air-pollution/en/ (2014)

  • Stubborn from Dongyun Jung

    First, could you introduce yourself and where you are currently based/your current role?

    My name is Dongyun Jung, a master’s student from University of Saskatchewan located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. I’m working with Dr. Joe Rubin from the department of Veterinary Microbiology. The Rubin lab works with antimicrobial resistant bacteria from a wide range of sources, not only domestic animals such as canine, swine, poultry, but also other interesting sources, such as food products and wildlife. Among many fascinating projects, my project is identification and characterization of antimicrobial resistant bacteria from imported vegetables and spices in Canada.

    What began your interest in the field?

    I’ve been interested in foodborne bacteria since my undergraduate program in Food Science. I was fascinated that the transmission of pathogens, which can cause serious infections, into people can occur through food. Food is also important vehicle for the transmission of antimicrobial resistant bacteria, they have been identified from meats, vegetables, fruits and spices all around the world. It made me work on my master’s project with huge interest and I could find very interesting multi-drug resistant organisms including meropenem- and colistin-resistant Pseudomonas fluorescens, which was used for this drawing on Mueller Hinton agar plate.

    Could you give us a brief background to this photograph and how it ties into your research?

    This bull is drawn with P. fluorescens isolated from imported frozen vegetables (okra). This organism is a Gram-negative bacterium that is commonly found in soil and water along with other Pseudomonas species. It is known to be resistant to multiple antibiotics, and although it is less commonly associated with disease than its close cousin P. aeruginosa, a notorious cause of pneumonia, it has been isolated from infections. The diversity of environments where P. fluorescens is found can be attributed its unique metabolic strategies to acquire nutrients. Iron uptake for example is driven by pyoverdine, a fluorescent siderophore whose production in low iron conditions makes the organism fluorescent.

    What message would you like people to take away from your image?

    Although this organism is less commonly associated with infections than P. aeruginosa, its multi-drug resistance makes it stubborn like a bull, allowing it to exist in non-clinical environments including foods that we encounter everyday.


  • The VEX’ed Trypanosome from Joana Faria

    Could you introduce yourself and where you are currently based/your current role?

    My name is Joana R. C. Faria, I obtained a 5-year Msci degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Porto in Portugal, where I’m originally from. Immediately afterwards I started my PhD in Molecular Microbiology, specifically Molecular Parasitology. During that period, I spent my time between the Institute for Molecular and Cell Biology (IBMC – now part of I3S) in Porto and the Institut Pasteur Korea (Pasteur Network) in Seoul. I finished my PhD in 2016 and moved on to my current position as a Postdoctoral Research Assistant at the Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research (CAIR) at the University of Dundee (UK), in the laboratory of Professor David Horn. Since then I have been studying the molecular mechanisms that underpin antigenic variation in African trypanosomes.

    What began your interest in the field?

    I think I decided I would be a scientist at the age of 9 when a couple of cousins offered me a microscope as a birthday present (very limited magnification but very exciting). Maths, biology and chemistry or related subjects were always my favorite throughout school and later at university I became particularly interested on microbes. Parasites, specifically, are terribly fascinating creatures: from their unorthodox biology to the various strategies they have evolved to trick and exploit their hosts. For instance, antigenic variation is an incredibly successful mechanism of immune evasion that many pathogens, among those several parasites, have mastered. I first came across antigenic variation in African trypanosomes in the beginning of my PhD, and despite working on a different subject at the time, I would consistently read papers about it. The more I read about it, the more fascinated I became: an organism that expresses a single surface-exposed antigen out of 2000 possibilities, how amazing is that? Additionally, I realised that single-gene choice occurred in multiple eukaryotes involving various families of genes and remained a mystery in all cases. That instigated my curiosity even further and therefore, only half way through my PhD I contacted Prof. Horn expressing my interest on a postdoc in that subject. I started in Prof Horn’s lab only 3 days after I completed my PhD.

    Could you give us a brief background to this photograph and how it ties into your research?

    Several pathogens undergo antigenic variation and by shifting a surface exposed antigen, they deceive and successfully evade their hosts’ immune system. Trypanosoma brucei, a parasitic protozoan and the causative agent of African sleeping sickness, undergoes antigenic variation by switching its variant surface glycoprotein (VSG). Trypanosomes are masters of disguise expressing a single VSG from thousands of possible genes, a process designated ‘allelic exclusion’ that is reminiscent of olfactory and antigen receptors single gene choice in mammals. VSG singular expression and switching are absolutely crucial to maintain a successful infection, however, despite decades of intense study, the mechanisms governing the former remain obscure.

    We have recently discovered a set of proteins that associate with a well-known chromatin assembly factor forming the first allelic exclusion complex ever characterized. Indeed, VEX1 and VEX2 (VSG-EXclusion protein 1 and 2) sustain and coordinate VSG monoallelic expression.

    In the image, nuclear and mitochondrial genome (kinetoplast) were stained with DAPI (cyan). On the left, two healthy trypanosomes possess a uniform VSG coat (VSG-2, green) that is heavily packed with approximately 10 million molecules per cell that are GPI-anchored to the plasma membrane. In these cells, all the other VSG-coding genes remain silent. On the right, following VEX1 and VEX2 knockdown, a VEX’ed trypanosome has lost its ability to express a single VSG at a time, becoming a liability in the population by exposing multiple antigens simultaneously. In the image, the original VSG (VSG-2, green) and a VSG that was initially silent (VSG-6, red) were stained and a mixed coat is depicted. Interestingly, we can actually appreciate (red) vesicles loaded with the new VSG (VSG-6) being trafficked towards the flagellar pocket, the sole site of exo and endocytosis in these organisms.

    What message would you like people to take away from your image?

    We have identified and characterized a protein complex that controls single-gene choice for the first time in any system. Our findings not only shed light on antigenic variation in African trypanosomes, but may lead to a better understanding of this enigmatic and fascinating process in other pathogens. This can be potentially exploited for drug or vaccine development. On the other hand, it is captivating to think that our studies in a ‘simple’ unicellular organism may actually help cracking a long standing fundamental question – the lingering mystery of olfactory or antigen receptors expression in mammals.

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