Measures taken in the current Ebola outbreak may hold some clues for how to handle samples brought back to Earth from Mars, a place that could potentially host extraterrestrial microbes.
The 1971 sci-fi film "The Andromeda Strain" dramatized the idea of alien organisms infecting the Earth. Based on a novel by Michael Crichton, the film depicts the spread of an alien germ brought back to Earth by a satellite. An elite team of specialists responds, relying on protective hazmat suits, decontamination and disinfection safety levels, and a secret, high-tech underground facility named Wildfire to study and deal with the deadly extraterrestrial organism.
1. The bacteria aren't actually eating your flesh. The various species—including some that cause strep and staph—enter a wound, scrape, or bug bite and unleash a flood of toxic chemicals that kill surrounding tissue cells.
2. At least 650 cases crop up each year in the US—and about a quarter prove fatal. Flesh-eating bacteria have claimed the life of particle physicist Alexandru Marin, a chunk of the right leg of science fiction writer/marine biologist Peter Watts, and some of Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman's right arm.