The Secret of the Lost Time Capsule?

Several years ago, New York University made plans to demolish the Bellevue Hospital Medical College building in New York City. In the process, it discovered the existence of a mysterious time capsule which had gone undetected for more than 100 years. A few days ago, this capsule was finally opened. What did scholars find inside of it?

Time Capsule (Buffalo)

“A Time Capsule tomb outside of the Buffalo City Court Building”
Photographed by Fortunate4now
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The 1897 Bellevue Hospital Time Capsule?

In 1897, a bacteriologist named Edward Dunham buried the time capsule inside the cornerstone of the Bellevue Hospital Medical College building. After being recovered from the concrete, the 15-pound capsule was handed over to Dr. Martin Blaser, a well-known bacteriologist and chair of New York University’s Department of Medicine.

Dr. Blaser opened up the box and discovered the typical time capsule stuff…as well as something a little more unusual…

“In addition to papers from that time and materials from students from the Bellevue Medical College and the newspaper the New York Sun from 1897, it also had a test tube that had some bacterial spores in it that were gotten and cultured from a patient in 1896.” ~ Dr. Martin Blaser

More specifically, the sealed Pasteur tube contained spores of a bacterial strain culled from a 23 year-old female patient. The microbes, originally known as Bacillus aerogenes capsulatus and now known as Clostridium perfringens, are “believed to be the oldest identified spores of a species of bacterium, according to an article published in the New York Times on Nov. 14, 1897.”

Ancient Bacteria Spores?

During the late 1800s, these microbes were responsible for infections that sometimes led to gangrene. They still exist today, residing in the intestines of most people. However, these days the only damage they cause is the occasional food poisoning.

While interesting in their own right, the spores may prove useful to modern science. They come from the pre-antibiotic era, which means they’ve been untouched by decades of modern medicine.

“We are interested in the question of whether seventy years of antibiotics is changing the organisms that live in the body. The organism that was put in the time capsule was a normal organism that lives in the human body. By having this organism and comparing it to present day organisms, we may have a chance to answer the question of whether our own organisms are changing or not.” ~ Dr. Martin Blaser

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

A team led by Dr. Blaser is attempting to wake these hardy spores and get them growing again. Assuming they’re still alive, the process shouldn’t take much more than 24 hours. Assuming all goes well, the team should garner valuable knowledge about the evolution of bacteria as well as the effects of modern medication on that evolution.

At this point, I’m sure some of you are wondering: “Are they insane?” After all, the idea of reviving a pre-antibiotic bacteria sits at the core of numerous pandemic-based thrillers. But in reality, the risk of anything going wrong is small…very small…

Isn’t it?

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