To understand much of the behaviour of microbial pathogens, it is necessary to image living cells, their interactions with each other and with host cells. Species such as Escherichia coli are difficult subjects to image: they are typically microscopic, colourless and transparent. Traditional cell visualisation techniques such as fluorescent tagging or phase-contrast microscopy give excellent information on cell behaviour in two dimensions, but no information about cells moving in three dimensions. We review the use of digital holographic microscopy for three-dimensional imaging at high speeds, and demonstrate its use for capturing the shape and swimming behaviour of three important model pathogens: E. coli, Plasmodium spp. and Leishmania spp.
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