New high-resolution pictures of SARS-CoV-2 that cause deadly and highly contagious disease COVID-19 explains "viral shedding" in action. The picture of the novel coronavirus was taken by a classic scanning electron microscope, also known as SEM.

According to the Director's Blog on National Institutes of Health, these images are shot with the objective of helping researchers and scientists to enhance their scientific knowledge of this virus that has so far infected more than three million people and claimed the lives of nearly 220,000 people across the globe. The images are taken by Elizabeth Fischer, the head of Electron Microscopy Unit at Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML), a part of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) that's located in the small Montana town of Hamilton.

The colourful pictures as published on the blog depicts viral shedding of the virus, a process of expulsion and release of viral particle and replication of its progeny in the host's body. In the images, the viral particles can be seen as tiny, blue circles emerging from orange-brown folds, a part of the surface of the infected cell. The blue spheres are SARS-CoV-2 particles on the cell surface.

"This image gives us a window into how devastatingly effective SARS-CoV-2 appears to be at co-opting a host's cellular machinery: just one infected cell is capable of releasing thousands of new virus particles that can, in turn, be transmitted to others," writes Francis Collins, the author of the blog.

Fischer has 25 years of experience in snapping images of these types of dangerous viruses and microbes. She was also behind similar pictures of the deadly Ebola virus that caused viral haemorrhagic fever in humans and non-human primates and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), a viral respiratory illness also known as camel flu.

Novel coronavirus
The US Centers for Disease Control warned Americans to prepare for a more ferocious second wave of infections. Photo: AFP / Johannes EISELE

Fischer believes that images like these not only helps in "advancing scientific knowledge," but also holds "remarkable power to make an invisible enemy visible to the world at large."