NASA researchers catalogue all microbes and fungi on the International Space Station

phys.org | 10/26/2015 | Staff
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A comprehensive catalogue of the bacteria and fungi found on surfaces inside the International Space Station (ISS) is being presented in a study published in the open access journal Microbiome. Knowledge of the composition of the microbial and fungal communities on the ISS can be used to develop safety measures for NASA for long-term space travel or living in space.

Dr. Kasthuri Venkateswaran, at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the corresponding author said: "Specific microbes in indoor spaces on Earth have been shown to impact human health. 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. In light of possible future long-duration missions, it is important to identify the types of microorganisms that can accumulate in the unique, closed environments associated with spaceflight, how long they survive and their impact on human health and spacecraft infrastructure."

Researchers - Microbes - ISS - Bacteria - Staphylococcus

The researchers found that microbes on the ISS were mostly human-associated. The most prominent bacteria were Staphylococcus (26% of total isolates), Pantoea (23%) and Bacillus (11%). They included organisms that are considered opportunistic pathogens on Earth, such as Staphylococcus aureus (10% of total isolates identified), which is commonly found on the skin and in the nasal passage, and Enterobacter, which is associated with the human gastrointestinal tract. On Earth, they are predominant in gyms, offices, and hospitals, which suggests that the ISS is similar to other built environments where the microbiome is shaped by human occupation.

Dr. Checinska Sielaff, first author said: "Whether these opportunistic bacteria could cause disease in astronauts on the ISS is unknown. This would depend on a number of factors, including the health status of each individual and how these organisms function while in the space environment....
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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