Friday, 19 April, 2019

International Space Station is 'teeming with germs and bacteria'

Astronaut Stephen K. Robinson STS-114 mission specialist anchored to a foot restraint on the International Space Station's Canadarm2 participates in the mission's third session of extravehicular activity REUTERS NASAStress of Space Travel Can Reactivate Dormant Viruses in Astronauts
Cary Marshall | 10 April, 2019, 05:45

The microbes on the ISS were mostly human-associated. Also, Astrobees is a key for future missions to the moon and beyond.

It turns out astronauts aren't alone on the International Space Station.

"This is even more important for astronauts during spaceflight, as they have altered immunity and do not have access to the sophisticated medical interventions available on Earth", corresponding author Kasthuri Venkateswaran said in a journal news release.

In addition to the danger of disease, the forming bacteria could lead to mechanical blockages on the station's infrastructure as it causes "microbial-induced" corrosion back on Earth.

For the experiment, eight different locations aboard the ISS were tested over three flight sample sessions in an effort to determine which microorganisms can populate in a closed space. They included organisms as well that are considered opportunistic pathogens on Earth, such as Staphylococcus aureus which is common in the nasal passage, and Enterobacter that is associated with the human gastrointestinal tract.

Microflora can have a range of impacts on human health, so it pays to know exactly what you're up against - especially in space. There are a lot of factors that could make them sick or not, but the most important fact is the health status of each on the space station. The most noticeable bacteria were Staphylococcus, Pantoea, and Bacillus.

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What they found was a thriving community of microbes, but while the fungal groups were relatively stable over time, the bacterial groups appeared to fluctuate along with the ever-changing crew.

However, this kind of bacteria is found in offices, gyms, and hospitals, and that means that the ISS has a similarity to other environments build by humans, and it's shaping around peoples occupation. Samples taken during the second flight mission had higher microbial diversity than samples collected during the first and third missions.

"Regardless, the detection of possible disease-causing organisms highlights the importance of further studies to examine how these ISS microbes function in space", said Dr Checinska Sielaff, the study's first author. The authors suggest that these temporal differences may come down to which astronauts are aboard the ISS at any given time.

Numerous organisms are known to form both bacterial and fungal biofilms that promote resistance to antibiotics.

Finally, with the study of bacteria on the International Space Station, NASA can improve safety measures for human space habitation.

'The results can also have significant impact on our understanding of other confined built environments on the Earth such as clean rooms used in the pharmaceutical and medical industries'.

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