As ridiculous as it may seem, HIV and spam e-mails have a lot in common. They way HIV mutates, constantly looking for alternative approaches to beating the immune system, is akin to the way e-mail spammers are always switching up their methods in order to get past filters. Recognizing this, Microsoft Research has developed PhyloD, an application based on Hotmail spam-filtering repurposed for predicting viral mutations.

In use by the Ragon Institute—a collaboration between MIT, Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital—the application has already proved invaluable, processing a year’s worth of data in a matter of days and therein discovering six times as many possibly attacks points on the HIV virus as previously thought.

[via Gizmodo]