Land mines are currently strewn throughout 87 of the world’s countries, and each year they cause 15,000-20,000 new casualties, the vast majority of which are inflicted upon civilians. Sifting through minefields to remove these hidden threats is currently a dangerous, tedious, and expensive process, however scientists at the University of Edinburgh recently announced that they have engineered a strain of bacteria that glows green in the presence of explosives, making mine detection a snap.
According to Edinburgh University scientists, the new strain of bacteria can be sprayed onto local affected areas or air dropped over entire fields of mines. Within a few hours the bacteria strain begins to glow green wherever traces of explosive chemicals are present.
The new strain was produced using a technique called BioBricking, wherein strands of bacterial DNA can be manipulated to express desired traits. The bacteria are cheap, can be easily mass produced, and offer tremendous advances over the cost of removing a land mine using conventional detectors, which can range from $300 to $1,000.
Our only concern is that great care must be taken when blanketing areas with the bacteria, such that their spread doesn’t amount to an act of biological warfare in and of itself.