Meet 'Conan the Bacterium,' The Bug That Could Kill HIV
There's a germ that could one day help prevent hair loss, heal victims of a bioweapon attack and even vaccinate against HIV—it's called Conan the Bacterium.
Its scientific name is actually Deinococcus radiodurans (which in Ancient Greek literally means, "the terrible radiation surviving grain"), a nod towards the bacterium's ability to withstand more than 3,000 times the radiation needed to kill a human being.
The germ's ability to repair damaged DNA has led scientists to believe that it could one day help heal cells corrupted by other diseases, such as HIV. Though an HIV vaccine would be years away, so far the scientists have already used Conan to successfully rid lab mice of the flesh-eating virus MRSA.
In 2006, American and Russian scientists theorized that the germ could be a literal martian, that is, that it may have arrived on Earth via a meteorite from Mars—which might explain its seemingly extra-terrestrial ability to repair DNA.
But despite its possibly intergalactic origins, the germ has been discovered here on Earth in elephant dung, Antarctic icebergs and even in everyday mailboxes.
That's right, a superhero could be living in your mailbox at this very moment—and you thought there were only bills in there.