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Did glowing bacteria save Civil War soldiers lives? “…at the Battle of Shiloh left more than 16,000 soldiers wounded and more 3,000 dead, and neither federal or Confederate medics were prepared for the carnage…Many soldiers died from infections that modern medicine would be able to nip in the bud…Some of the Shiloh soldiers sat in the mud for two rainy days and nights waiting for the medics to get around to them. As dusk fell the first night, some of them noticed something very strange: their wounds were glowing, casting a faint light into the darkness of the battlefield. Even stranger, when the troops were eventually moved to field hospitals, those whose wounds glowed had a better survival rate and had their wounds heal more quickly and cleanly than their unilluminated brothers-in-arms. The seemingly protective effect of the mysterious light earned it the nickname “Angel’s Glow.”…did some research on both the bacteria and the conditions during the Battle of Shiloh. They learned that Photorhabdus luminescens…might have something to do with the glowing wounds…figured out that the weather and soil conditions were right for both P. luminescens…concluded that the bacteria, along with the nematodes, got into the soldiers’ wounds from the soil. This not only turned their wounds into night lights, but may have saved their lives. The chemical cocktail that P. luminescens uses to clear out its competition probably helped kill off other pathogens that might have infected the soldiers’ wounds. Since neither P. luminescens nor its associated nematode species are very infectious to humans, they would have soon been cleaned out by the immune system themselves (which is not to say you should be self-medicating with bacteria; P. luminescens infections can occur, and can result in some nasty ulcers).”
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