Yellowstone's Role in Testing for COVID-19

National Geographic: Curious YNP microbe is now a key ingredient used in most of the tests being developed for COVID-19

Published online: Mar 31, 2020 Articles, East Idaho Health Steve Smede
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From Boise to Bangladesh and everywhere in between, the coronavirus pandemic has worked its way into nearly every field of social and scientific study. Beyond public health and the economy, it is also driving discussions in psychology, agronomy, computer science and engineering.

One of the more relevant fields — microbiology — is playing a huge role just a stone’s throw from eastern Idaho.

A recent report from National Geographic details how 50-plus years ago, a curious microbe with heat-resistant enzymes was discovered in a Yellowstone spring — and is now a key ingredient used in most of the tests being developed for COVID-19.

According to Nat Geo science staff writer Maya Wei-Haas, “The enzymes are a key component in polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, a method used widely in labs around the world to study small samples of genetic material by making millions of copies.”

As COVID-19 makes its way around the globe, testing has become monumental in blunting the pandemic’s advance, Wei-Haas writes. “While authorities have been slow in making COVID-19 tests widely available in the U.S., the PCR process that is the vital backbone of the test is relatively simple and quick, thanks to a cluster of bacteria thriving in the thermal pools of Yellowstone.”

Read the full piece hereFor more information on COVID-19, visit For daily updates on the coronavirus in Idaho, click here.


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