Why Some Civil War Soldiers Glowed in the Dark?

This blog is about soils and how they are important in art and culture, and nothing, to me, captures the awesomeness of soils like glow in the dark bacteria!

These are examples of the glowing bacteria in waxworms (A), and how the bacteria glows in the guts of the nematode (B).  (Image courtesy Todd Ciche,Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824 USA)

These are examples of the glowing bacteria in waxworms (A), and how the bacteria glows in the guts of the nematode (B). (Image courtesy Todd Ciche,Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824 USA)

Soldiers at Shiloh had to wait in the mud for several days to wait for medical care. When night fell, soldiers noticed that their wounds were glowing. The soldiers whose wounds were glowing had a higher survival rate, earning the glow the nickname “Angel Glow”.

Where does the Glow Come From?

Soil in that area contains luminescent bacterias Photorhabdus luminescens. These bacterias live in the guts of soil nematodes. The nematodes hunt down insect larvae in soil and on plants, and live in their blood vessels. Inside of the larvae, the nematodes then puke up the glowing blue bacteria. They then produce chemicals that kill the insect larvae, and all of the other microorganisms that live inside of them.

This leaves the nematode and bacteria inside of the insect, essentially hollowing them out from the inside. Once the insect is hollowed out, the nematodes feast on the glowing bacteria, which live in the stomach until they find new insects to prey on.

This is the nematode with the glowing bacteria inside

What did this mean?

This bacteria cannot usually live in humans, as they are too warm. But during the Tennessee spring, nighttime temperatures are cold enough, especially when it rains, to give these soldiers hypothermia. This gave the nematodes and glowing bacteria a good home. When the soldiers wounds got dirty, the nematodes got in and helped save their life. The chemical cocktail that gets rid of the competition for the nematodes and glowing bacteria helped kill off the other types of infectious bacteria. Once the soldiers were getting treatment, their immune system got rid of the nematodes.

The full article can be found here:

http://mentalfloss.com/article/30380/why-some-civil-war-soldiers-glowed-dark?goback=.gde_1791816_member_217763730

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