Monday, January 27, 2014

Blastocystis Microscopy Captured on iPhone

One of my readers sent me some videos of microscopy of some faecal preparations recorded on his iPhone and using a homemade and very cheap adapter (these adapters will otherwise set you back at least $80). I thought that was pretty cool, and one of the videos is quite good and useful to those who'd like to see what Blastocystis looks like through the microscope. It's not always easy  to confirm the presence of a parasite by just looking at a video, but in this case I was pretty sure, although the spherical structures seen in the beginning of the video might as well be fat cells (in direct preparations you don't get rid of faecal fat and debris, which makes detection and identification of parasites much more complicated, and this is - I believe - a direct smear using one drop of iodine and one drop of safranin). As you can see there is a large variation in the size of Blastocystis - something that you commonly see even within the same isolate - and you can also see that some of the cells differ in terms of the uptake of iodine and safranin; cells that have taken up iodine are much darker (brownish) in colour due to iodine staining of starch, and cells that have taken up safranin have red nuclei. Try to pause the video around 1:02, and you'll see these differences quite clearly. Enjoy!

Btw: If you want to make an adaptor yourself, maybe review the following piece of information that I got from the reader:
Adapters are easy to make, you just need an empty tea box (I used this one and then simply draw around the eye pieces on the back and cut them out, then on the front cut out an area above the left hand piece you cut out for the back (so the iPhone camera can see through it). Then simply put a few match sticks in the front of box where you would like the camera to sit. Then just insert the box over both eye pieces (which makes it stable) and put the iPhone on top - easy! The size of the that tea box is perfect as it is the right distance from the eye piece to the camera lens.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2014 Prospects

Happy New Year!

So, what's in store for us in 2014?

Difficult to say, but as least I can try and say a little about what is going on in our lab. Firstly, we are trying to publish what we are think are very interesting data on how gut bacteria may select for Blastocystis colonisation, a hypothesis we have developed based on studies of metagenomic data.

We are also working with the assembly and annotation of mitochondrial and nuclear genomes in collaboration with our international colleagues; something that will definitely take a while, since we have so few people in our lab to do it (literally one-two persons) but oceans of data (!!) - it's a pity that we cannot speed this up, since genomes are expected to hold keys to some of the great gates of Blastocystis enlightenment. Of course, a constant aim is to attract funding that can help us employ one or more PhD students/post docs interested in genomics and parasites. As always, I encourage my readers to come up with suggestions for funding.

Funding-wise we are also going to try and establish a Marie Curie ITN-network on the roles of intestinal microbial eukaryotes in health and disease and we are also awaiting decisions on other applications; hopefully, we will get some money for gut microbiome and immunological host profiling in experimental animals challenged with Blastocytis cysts. There may also be some work in our lab dealing with the impact of Blastocystis on bacterial communities in in-vitro studies.

Epidemiological data are produced as we speak; luckily, quite a few colleagues in different parts of the world are taking an interest in characterisation of Blastocystis in various cohorts so that we will know more about its epidemiology.

Those are the seminal things. Of course, there will be some exciting conferences, which I've mentioned before, and I'm also looking forward to putting together a Blastocystis review.