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Potentially dangerous fungi are living on space stations and spacecraft right now — but we have no idea if they're harmful for astronauts and scientists need to do much more research to figure that out. That's the takeaway from a new study published April 11 in the journal Astrobiologyreviewing what's known about mycotoxins — fungal compounds that can harm humans — in space.
The Earth is teeming with microscopic inhabitants such as bacteria and single-celled fungi. So it's no surprise that these constant companions have managed to hitchhike with humans aboard the International Space Station and other space-going vessels.
Stress - Spaceflight - Astronauts - Systems - Team
But the prolonged stress of spaceflight has been shown to affect astronauts' immune systems. Therefore, a team at Ghent University in Belgium wondered how fungi might affect astronauts' health. In a review of the scientific literature, the little that came up was mostly related to the detection of different fungal species.
"But about mycotoxins we found almost nothing," Sarah de Saeger, a pharmaceutical scientist at Ghent University and co-author of the new paper, told Live Science.
Fungi - Vessels - Aspergillus - Flavus - Members
This is problematic because the specific fungi that have been found on spacefaring vessels, such as Aspergillus flavus and members of the genus Alternaria, are known to produce carcinogenic and immune-depressing compounds, she said, and these molecules often form when fungi are stressed. (If space is a stressful environment for...
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