A couple of years ago, Australian postdoc Nate Lo was working at the University of Milan, looking for human pathogens in the tick species Ixodes ricinus, the main vector for Lyme disease. It was all routine until the day his PCR screening protocol revealed a novel 16S rRNA sequence. When his team took a tick apart to look for the new bug, they found it in the ovaries. And, when they looked closely at electron micrographs of infected ovarian tissues, they could see that the microbes were intracellular - living not in the cytoplasm of tick ova, but within their mitochondria.

"We'd never seen anything like this before," Lo says, as he opens the image files on his laptop on a rainy afternoon in Sydney. "They seem to get in between the inner and outer mitochondrial membranes and eat the mitochondria up. In the end you've just got this...

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