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“Angelic glow” – mysterious glowing wounds fromr soldiers during the Civil War in the United States

A long time ago, in April 1862, the US Army led by Major-General Ulysses Grant broke up a camp near Pittsburgh-Landing, Tennessee. On April 6, the Confederate army, led by General Albert Johnston, unexpectedly attacked this camp on the western side of the Tennessee River. The battle lasted two days, and then the confederate army retreated. As a result, there were 3,000 dead and 16,000 wounded, to which the physicians were completely unprepared.

Two days after the Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862), doctors who arrived on the battlefield noticed that at night a weak greenish-blue glow emanated from the wounds of many soldiers. And the luminous wounds healed faster and the scars from them were less, because this phenomenon was then called “angelic radiance”.

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So, after the battle, the wounded soldiers lay in the mud and in the rain, until medical aid arrived, but the doctors were not ready for such a scale of work. To their surprise, they noticed that some of the wounds emanated a faint glow, they were less inflamed, healed faster and almost did not leave scarring behind. The mystical phenomenon for a long time remained unsolved, until 140 years later two students of the 21st century finally resolved this mystery.

Two students, Bill Martin and John Curtis, seventeen and eighteen years old, gave an explanation of the “angelic shine” during a science fair in 2001. Bill found the answer when his mother, a microbiologist, worked with fluorescent bacteria living in the soil.

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Bill Martin once visited the site of the Battle of Shiloh, and when he heard about the glowing wounds of soldiers, he asked his mother, the microbiologist Phyllis Martin, whether the P. luminescens bacteria could be the cause of such a phenomenon. She invited her son to experiment and find out for himself, and then Bill drew his friend Jim Curtis for research.

However, during the experiments they discovered that P. luminescens can not survive at normal temperature of the human body. They then found that, since the soldiers were injured and remained lying on the battlefield, they had hypothermia due to humidity, and this was an excellent environment for bacteria.

Bacteria Photographs luminescens live in worms of nematodes and closely “cooperate” with them.

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The bacteria of P. luminescens and nematodes have a simple symbiotic relationship. When nematodes penetrate into the insect larvae, bacteria enter the body cavity of these larvae and kill them, and then nematodes and bacteria feed on them. When the larva is eaten, the nematodes again swallow the bacteria, whose bioluminescence attracts other insect-victims.

Because the bacteria P . luminiscens isolate chemicals that kill all other bacteria, they act as very effective antibiotics, so the luminous wounds are prolonged faster, increasing the chances of the wounded to survive.

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Glowing wounds of soldiers – this is the work of bacteria, because the wounded lay in mud and damp. The temperature at night in April was cool enough that lowered the body temperature of soldiers, giving ideal conditions for the prosperity of P. luminiscens bacteria. In addition, neither bacteria nor nematodes are contagious to humans, so soldiers have not suffered from them.

For their research, Bill Martin and John Curtis won first place at the 2001 Intel International Science and Technology Fair. It is not known whether the guardian angels exist, but for the surviving soldiers, the P. luminiscens bacterium became such an angel.

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