A bacteria found in the Atacama desert could provide a vital antibiotic breakthrough
Researchers in Chile suggested the bacterium, Streptomyces Bacillus Goderatophilus, could hypothetically be used for a range of medicinal purposes, including an industrial strength sunscreen capable of protecting the user from nuclear fall out.
According to astrobioligust Armando Azua, the bacteria is "a relative of other bacteria that produce antibiotics".
He said: "We think this one could do it as well, but we have to study it.
"[It would be] a great help at a time when we need new drugs to fight increasingly resistant bacteria."
Mr Azua was speaking at a Ted Fellows 2017 press conference when he made the remarks, Canali Ansa reported.
The bacteria was found in Chile's Atacama desert, which has not seen any significant rainfall from 1570 to 1971 and is regarded as having the most realistic enviroment to Mars on Earth.
The microorganisms were reportedly "blackened" by exposure to sunlight, but had neverthless survived.
Such high-tolerance to strong ultraviolet radiation was similar to a fungus found after the Chernobyl fallout in 1986, Mr Azua said.
That fungus produced a compound similar to melanin, which managed to not only tolerate gamma rays but could use light as an energy source.
The Atacama desert is one of the driest paces on earth
"Our hypothesis is that in the Atacama Desert there is a similar organism that instead of gamma rays, can tolerate the ultraviolet radiation producing a compound similar to melanin which acts as a natural sunscreen," Mr Azua said.
Another possibilty includes using the bacteria to create a new strain of plant that can survive for months without water, opening up fascinating possibilties for the future of agriculture.
Mr Azua said: ''By adding a gene that allows organisms to tolerate the lack of water in some deserts, we have created a plant that can survive well for weeks without water.
"With genes taken from microorganisms of the Atacama Desert, with the most extreme conditions on Earth, we think the results will be better'."
- Will locating life under Antarctic desert pave way for finding alien organisms in space?
- The spooky town in Death Valley left abandoned for almost a century
- Russian scientists discover MASSIVE haul of ‘extraterrestrial material