A GIANT inflatable E.coli bacterium that took 12 hours to install now hangs from the roof of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

The sculpture is the jaw-dropping showpiece of the institution's new Bacterial World exhibition which officially opened on Friday.

The 92ft-long E.coli is among 55 exhibits aiming to 'rehabilitate' the reputation of bacteria.

It took five riggers 12 hours to put in place, working through the night.

Scaffold towers were constructed to reach into the museum’s vaulted roof, where the E. coli, complete with spiky pili and flagella, is tethered.

The sculpture, created by artist Luke Jerram, is among the exhibits of the 'earliest form of life on Earth' to go on display in the show.

Deep-sea and geological specimens, as well as leafcutter ants, leeches and vampire bats, which live symbiotically with bacteria, also feature.

While mostly associated with food poisoning, illness and disease, curators describe bacteria as 'remarkable organisms' which can 'swim using nanoscopic motors and battle with spears’, adding 'they sense, communicate, and remember'.

The exhibition will show how bacteria could help tackle environmental problems, including oil spills and plastic waste.

Scott Billings, digital engagement officer at the museum, said: “Many unusual things happen in the museum, but installing a gigantic inflatable E. coli is definitely a first for us.

“The rigging team have artfully weaved the bacterium’s tail-like flagella around the iron architecture."

Bacterial World runs until May 28.