On Thursday (Feb. 13), the Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases revealed some of the first images of SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that has sickened over 60,000 people and killed another 1,370 in the outbreak that began in Wuhan, China.
Viruses are teeny-tiny infectious blobs that are made up of either DNA or RNA wrapped up inside a protein coat. They are too small to be seen by a typical light microscope.
Researchers at RML imaged samples of the virus and cells taken from a U.S. patient infected with COVID-19 (the new name for the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2) using two different kinds of high-resolution microscopes — the scanning electron microscope and the transmission electron microscope. Both use a focused beam of electrons rather than a beam of light to image samples. (The color is added later to the images.)