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The US Military Is Genetically Modifying Microbes to Detect Enemy Ships

Published: December 18, 2018
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<i>bacteria, Image Source: <a href='https://pixabay.com/en/bacteria-medical-biology-health-3662695/'>Pixabay</a></i>
bacteria, Image Source: Pixabay

The US military’s Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) is developing genetically engineered organisms that it hopes will be able to detect the presence of enemy submarines, ships, or divers, according to a new report published in Defense One.

The work is part of a $45 million initiative across all the branches of the US armed forces that is investigating ocean-based military applications for genetic engineering.

Motherboard has previously reported on the military’s plans to use larger aquatic animals to detect enemy ships, but now it appears that they are also looking to weaponize biology on the microscale.

As the Naval Research Laboratory told Motherboard in an email, researchers plan on using microorganisms commonly found in the ocean and genetically modify them so they react to various substances left by enemy vessels or equipment, such as fuel exhaust and trace amounts of metals.

So what would these organisms’ reactions look like? NRL researcher Sarah Glaven told Defense One that they could take the form of a chemical reaction in which microbes give up some of their electrons. The electrons would then be detected by a submarine drone, which could use them to determine what kind of enemy vessel the microbes had encountered.

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