These disease-fighting bacteria produce echoes detectable by ultrasound | Science News

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These disease-fighting bacteria produce echoes detectable by ultrasound

The technique could help scientists verify if bacterial treatments for some cancers, gut illnesses are working

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1:00pm, January 3, 2018
bacteria illustration

TAGGING BACTERIA Microbes genetically modified to contain gas-filled protein pouches (illustrated) scatter sound waves, generating ultrasound signals that reveal the microbes’ location within the body.

Ultrasound can now track bacteria in the body like sonar detects submarines.

For the first time, researchers have genetically modified microbes to form gas-filled pouches that scatter sound waves to produce ultrasound signals. When these bacteria are placed inside an animal, an ultrasound detector can pick up those signals and reveal the microbes’ location, much like sonar waves bouncing off ships at sea, explains study coauthor Mikhail Shapiro, a chemical engineer at Caltech.

This technique, described in the Jan. 4 Nature, could help researchers more closely monitor microbes used to seek and destroy tumors or treat gut diseases (SN: 11/1/14, p. 18).

Repurposing ultrasound, a common tissue-imaging method, to map microbes creates “a tool that nobody thought was even conceivable,

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