Glow in the Dark Wounds

The Civil War was an extremely violent period of American history, and soldiers from both the North and South faced terrible violence and painful situations. There were many wounds and casualties during the war, some of the worst and most grotesque in all of American history. Even the lucky ones who survived had many serious wounds and injuries that continued to affect them for the rest of their lives. 

One day, during the battle of Shiloh, something extremely surprising occurred. The soldiers from the North and South were at a standstill, and they ended up sitting in mud and rain for two whole days. Even soldiers with serious, open wounds had no choice but to sit in the mud, which allowed bacteria and eventually infection to begin attacking their bodies. While normally the infections would simply lead to amputations or even death, at Shiloh, the soldiers’ wounds, filled with dirt and detritus, began to glow. . This glow was named the “Angels Glow.”

When the doctors treated them, they had never experienced anything like it. It was already strange to see glowing wounds, but what’s more, the wounds healed faster because of a bacteria called Photorhabdus Luminescens. This species of bacteria was found in parasites, plants, animals, and insects. The P. Luminescens bacteria would release bioluminescent toxins to kill other parasites and bacteria it was competing with, keeping the wounds of the soldiers cleaner and healthier since there was relatively less bacteria to infect them.  

So, why don’t we see this happening more often? While it can’t be proven exactly where this species of bacteria came from during the battle of Shiloh, researchers think that the soldiers probably got the bacteria from insects that were in the dirt of the battleground during the war. The insects may have regurgitated on the soldiers wounds, hoping to use their flesh to eat or breed. This regurgitation on the wounds may have left a scent, which possibly could have attracted the glowing bacteria. So, researchers thought that  when  the insects threw up,  the bacteria probably went into the wounds to get to the nutrients of the barf. Little did the bacteria know that this would actually lead to more rapid healing for the soldiers. 

The men who got the bacteria experienced their wounds healing a lot faster than normal, and in the dark, they would glow. They healed faster because, according to iflscience, the bacteria that was in the soldiers’ wounds fought off the bacteria that was harmful, causing them to be safe and heal quicker. 

…it’s possible that the Angels Glow reported by Civil War doctors and soldiers may have been a bacterial species simultaneously fighting off infection and preventing the rotting of wounds until doctors could arrive, all whilst glowing to demonstrate their otherworldly healing.

In 2001, the bacteria was actually isolated and discovered by a man named Bill Martin. One day, he was out in the battlefield of Shiloh and heard about the Angel’s Glow. He wanted to do research about it. His mom was a microbiologist who studied soil and he decided to find out how it helped the soldiers’ wounds. Bill and his research partners soon figured out that there were actually worms that had a very bright blue color and that bacteria living in the worms, the same Photorhabdus Lluminescens I mentioned before, could fight off other bacteria that did harm. Bill succeeded in discovering where exactly this bacteria came from, but there are still many mysteries to solve. 

The Shiloh soldiers experienced something that no one has ever experienced before. Even though BIll  found out about the worms, people still do not know the full explanation of where the worms live most often, or if they can be used in a laboratory or medical setting. Maybe in the future the glowing worms and their associated bacteria will become a specific type of medicine that people can use to help with the healing process. 

Sloth Hair Fungus is an Incredibly Potent and Effective Medicine

sloth smile

Three-toed sloths are giving us a reason to smile.

Sloths have quickly become the center of a great deal of excitement in the medical world. Researchers from Panama and the United States have discovered that multiple species of fungi growing on sloth hair may be the answer to a large list of medical maladies. The discovery is examined in a recent peer reviewed study published on January 15th.

In the study, researchers examined a total of 84 fungal samples found on the coarse outer hair of nine live three-toed sloths. The fungus filled sloths are native to the Soberanía National Park, in the Republic of Panama.  A large number of these fungal samples were found to be beneficial in a number of different ways. Anti-cancer, anti-parasitic, and anti-bacterial properties were all exhibited by at least one species of fungus found on the three-toed sloths. More specifically, fungus found growing on sloth hair proved to exhibit bioactivity against

Trypanosoma cruzi, the causal agent of Chagas disease; Plasmodium falciparum, the causal agent of malaria; the human breast cancer cell line MCF-7; and a range of Gram-negative and Gram-positive human pathogenic bacteria.

sloth hair malaria cdc

The global distribution of malaria.

This is great news since Chagas disease is listed by the CDC as one of the top five most neglected parasitic infections in the US based on its severity, the number of people infected, and the ability to prevent and treat it. This is largely due to a lack of awareness regarding the disease. Over 8 million people in Mexico, Central America, and South America have Chagas disease. It has made its way to the United States with nearly 300,000 US citizens currently diagnosed with the illness. Sloths to the rescue.

Related Article: Fungi Fun: Mushrooms and How to Harness their Power

As for malaria and cancer, the need to find an expedient cure or effective preventative mechanism is clear. Over 3 billion people live in a malaria-risk zone. 655,000 people (86% were children) died in 2010 of malaria. Everyone is at risk for cancer. 8.2 million people died from cancer in 2012. There’s no need to elaborate on the need to find a cure for these illnesses.

Not surprisingly, this is the first time fungal samples found on sloth hair have been tested and reported to be at least minimally effective in treating human disease. Who would have thought that something so slow and easy to catch would prove to be so extremely beneficial to us?

The researchers originally chose the three-toed sloth as a viable candidate for harboring natural medicinal substances due to the vast amount of fungus and algae that grows on the sloths’ hair. Since the discovery of penicillin more than 80 years ago, fungi began and continue to be widely used for their medicinal benefits. This applies to both raw fungus, and fungus as a base for chemical derivatives used in various types of medicine around the world.

Related Article: Amazon Rainforest Holds Many Surprises

Unfortunately, the success rate of finding a fungus that exhibits bioactivity against human sources of diseases has dramatically slowed. This led some scientists to believe that we had already discovered the easy to find bioactive fungi. As the authors state in the study, many scientists believed that the slowed rate of discovery could be an indication of,

the impending exhaustion of ‘low hanging fruit’ – the easily and frequently accessed fungi such as soil microfungi – as sources of new bioactive metabolites.

Simply put, with the exhaustion of “low hanging fruit,” discovering and creating effective medicine becomes increasingly difficult. However, just because the “low hanging fruit” is exhausted doesn’t mean the whole tree has been uprooted. We have discovered less than 100,000 different fungal species out of the conservative estimate of five million species of fungus that calls Earth its home. This is why scientists are starting to get creative in the places they look for new, bioactive fungi. Cue the the three-toed sloth, and wait a few hours for it to make its grand appearance.

The researchers suggest that their results illustrate that sloth hair may be a potential source of even more bioactive fungi. They note that there are five other sloth species on the planet with fungi-filled hair ready for examination.

It takes a great deal of time and luck to find a new, effective medicinal constituent. Let’s hope father time and lady luck are on our side. As for sloths; thanks for hanging around.

sloth hair slow soon

It’s a good thing for this sloth that time is relative.




Stay Away From Antibacterial Soap!

Triclosan. Ever heard of it? Me neither, until now that is. Triclosan was originally registered as a pesticide and it has been labeled as a dangerous chemical over the last couple of years. Apparently it’s a very pervasive and popular chemical used in antibacterial soap, deodorant, and toothpaste. Not only that, but it can sometimes be found in clothing, kitchenware, furniture and toys. How do I know that? The FDA website says so. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or FDA:

At this time, FDA does not have evidence that Triclosan added to antibacterial soaps and body washes provides extra health benefits over soap and water. Consumers concerned about using hand and body soaps with Triclosan should wash with regular soap and water.

Ok, so it’s just fluff added to appeal to the customer right? Yes and NO! A recent study conducted by the University of California, Davis, and the University of Colorado found that:

Triclosan impaired the ability of isolated heart muscle cells and skeletal muscle fibers to contract.

How exactly?

In the presence of Triclosan, the normal communication between two proteins that function as calcium channels was impaired, causing skeletal and cardiac muscle failure.

A higher risk for heart attack or heart failure?! Yes, I ran to my bathroom to check if I had anything that contained it. This of course was followed by the ceremony of throwing out my half-filled soap dispenser; there goes my hard earned 3 dollars, oh well. No real benefits and yet it is in our antibacterial soap, shampoo, and toothpaste! Sounds to me like we don’t really need it. Dr. Sarah Janssen, a physician and senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council agrees:

Triclosan is what we call a stupid use of a chemical. It doesn’t work, it’s not safe and it is not being regulated.

Ways to get around anti-bacterial soap and toothpaste:

Go All Natural!

If you are hardcore: Create your own Soap, Shampoo, Toothpaste!

Or simply start reading labels. It honestly takes 10 seconds to scan through the ingredients, and now you know at least one ingredient to be on the lookout for!

As for the clothes and other cloth items that contain Triclosan… start knitting.

For other ingredients to avoid check out this article on Wheat and Corn! It’ll boggle your mind to find out about those two heavily used items. Yes, everything nowadays seems to be bad for you but avoiding the bad things may lead you to a healthier, longer life! That should be reason enough to avoid something!


U.S. Food and Drug Administration

UC Davis Study

Sarah Janssen, MD

Triclosan Definition

Natural Soap, Shampoo, Toothpaste, Etc.

Homemade Soap

Homemade Toothpaste

Homemade Shampoo

Wondergressive: Wheat Article

Wondergressive: Corn Article