Wherever people go, our bacterial counterparts will follow. That's so true in space as it is on Earth, and although we have known that microbial astronauts are present at the International Space Station, one group of new researchers has found a new reason to worry about them.
A genomic analysis of samples collected from the space toilet onboard the station, among other places, has revealed that some of the bacteria on the ISS are resistant to antibiotics. There is no danger to astronaut at present, says researchers, from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, but it reminds that bacteria could be a threat in the limited space station environment.
In this new study, researchers were typical of genomes and these species in detail and compared their genomes to their genomes of 1,291 Enterobacter Stresses from Earth. And, by studying the genetic composition of the bacteria, they were able to see that the bacteria would be likely to resist anti-bacterial drugs.
Nitin Singh, the first author of the study, emphasized in a statement that these strains are not brilliant, meaning that they are not an active hazard or a threat to astronauts. However, Singh added, one of the stresses found, Enterobacter bugandensis is a convenient pathogen, which can cause a disease. A computer analysis of the species found that it really poses a significant risk of causing harm to people in the future.
The work was part of an effort to better understand how future microbiological astronauts will affect human life in space.
"Understanding how microbial life grows in a enclosed environment such as the ISS will help us to prepare it better for the health concerns that travel on a place," Singh said in an email. "ISS offers a direct opportunity for us to study an attitude that is often ignored from space travel: how a microbiology system and space life support interact," says Singh
The shutdown system on the space of the space station is a unique environment for bacteria and other microbi organisms. Just as microbial species grow, modify and multiply here on Earth, they will do the same in space. The springs and crannies of equipment and storage on the board of the space station are kept clean, but the current microscopic organisms will find shade and adapt to survive. As researchers came to attention, some of those adaptations could include antibodies that resist antibiotics, and make the bacteria very difficult to fight.
By understanding the species better on the space station, researchers are hoping to find out how to best protect astronauts. For example, they could know when and how often to clean up specific equipment on the board, says Singh.
Although the bacterial species in the space station does not pose a current risk, the human immune system is compromised in space, Singh explained. Therefore, on deep space space journeys where astronauts could spend more time in space and may have more time for bacteria to adapt and multiply, the risk of infection could be higher.
"Once the immune system starts to weaken, microbes that were previously innocent could make you ill," Singh said.
This study was published in the magazine BMC Microbiology.