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Scientists Search The Snow For New Vaccines

Who would think that researchers would find ingredients for modern medicine buried in the ice?


Photo: Michael Heilemann

This bacteria is well-equipped to handle the Arctic freeze.

Medical researchers are taking a break from the laboratory, strapping on their snow boots and taking a trip to the Arctic.

This does seem curious. How could they find anything of medical relevance in all that snow and ice?

Luckily for them, what they seek is not too hard to spot. In fact, it looks like a big red splotch right there in the snow! Scientists call it Colwellia psycherythraea. It’s a species of Arctic bacteria that loves the sub-zero temperatures that would kill most other bacteria.

Scientists believe that genes found in Colwellia are just what they need to create the next generation of anti-bacteria vaccines.

Here’s the plan:

Pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella would be fortified with the heat-sensitive Colwellia genes, and would therefore perished in the balmy human body — but not before alerting the body’s immune system to an outside invader. The body starts producing antibodies as the bacteria die, and a vaccine is born!

Read More:

  • Genes from Arctic Bacteria Used to Create New Vaccines (Discover)
  • Essential Genes from Arctic Bacteria Used to Construct Stable, Temperature-Sensitive Bacterial Vaccines (PNAS)

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Molly Plunkett

is a journalism student at Indiana University and an online producer for A Moment of Science. She is originally from Wheaton, IL.

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