Angels or medicine?

In 1862 in America the Civil War broke out, also called the Battle of Shiloh. It was one of the bloodiest civil wars because it caused 3000 deaths and thousands of wounded. Doctors of that time didn’t have great resources and weren’t prepared for the massacre that occurred in a single night. Moreover, the wounded soldiers were forced to stay for days in the mud waiting for their turn and be treated; it didn’t help that their immune system was very weak due to wars and poor nutrition. It was possible to hear their screams from thousands of kilometers because mud and low temperatures were worsening their wounds, which attracted bacteria. Some of them died while waiting.

 That night, however, something strange happened: some soldiers noticed that their wounds glowed and illuminated the surrounding environment. Once all soldiers had recovered, it was noted that those who had seen their wounds glisten had a higher survival rate and also their wounds healed much faster. This strange light that saved thousands of soldiers was called “Angel’s Glow”

What was that light? Could the merit be attributed to angels?

In 2001, after hearing this story, Bill Martin and Jon Curtis decided to find out the origins of the phenomenon. They carried out some experiments and discovered the existence of a luminescent bacterium called “Photorhabdus luminescens” that lives in the bowels of nematodes  – that are parasites living in symbiosis. They discovered also that those parasites get into insects where they pour the bacterium, which, in turn, emits a light and some toxins that kill both the host and other microorganisms. Thanks to their studies, they discovered that it was this bacterium that had saved the soldiers’ lives and that it was facilitated by the low temperatures to which the soldiers were forced. This bacterium with the production of toxins had eliminated other pathogens present in the soldier’s wounds. Once cured, the soldiers had no problems with the bacterium because it doesn’tsurvive to the temperatures of the human body.

Alyssa Rizzo


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