Space

Study shows the International Space Station is brimming with bacteria

Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques inside the Harmony module aboard the ISS last month
Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques inside the Harmony module aboard the ISS last month
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Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques inside the Harmony module aboard the ISS last month
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Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques inside the Harmony module aboard the ISS last month

Knowing the make up the microbial community on the International Space Station (ISS) would be of huge use to space agencies trying to safeguard the wellbeing of their astronauts. This has been a focus of NASA's for a while, and its scientists have just put the finishing touches on what they say is the first comprehensive catalog of all the bacteria and fungi inside the ISS, describing a bacteria-filled environment not dissimilar to a gym or an office.

Over a period of 14 months, researchers gathered samples from eight different surfaces around the inside of the ISS, including viewing windows, toilets, exercise platforms and dining tables.

These surface samples were analyzed using traditional culture techniques and gene sequencing methods, and the results paint a picture of an enclosed environment brimming with bacteria. The microbes present on the ISS were found to be mostly linked to humans, with Staphylococcus aureus and Enterobacter among them.

These bacteria are rife in hospitals, offices, gyms and similar enclosed environments that are home to human activity. This is perhaps not all that surprising, given that 230 different people from 18 different countries have visited the ISS and it has been continuously occupied since 2000. But that doesn't make the research any less important, as scientists seek to better understand the microbes that inhabit these environments with a view to developing safety measures for missions to the Moon, Mars or maybe beyond.

"Specific microbes in indoor spaces on Earth have been shown to impact human health," says Dr Kasthuri Venkateswaran from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and author on the new study. "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."

The team published its research in the journal Microbiome.

Source: Microbiome via ScienceDaily

Knowing the make up the microbial community on the International Space Station (ISS) would be of huge use to space agencies trying to safeguard the wellbeing of their astronauts. This has been a focus of NASA's for a while, and its scientists have just put the finishing touches on what they say is the first comprehensive catalog of all the bacteria and fungi inside the ISS, describing a bacteria-filled environment not dissimilar to a gym or an office.

Over a period of 14 months, researchers gathered samples from eight different surfaces around the inside of the ISS, including viewing windows, toilets, exercise platforms and dining tables.

These surface samples were analyzed using traditional culture techniques and gene sequencing methods, and the results paint a picture of an enclosed environment brimming with bacteria. The microbes present on the ISS were found to be mostly linked to humans, with Staphylococcus aureus and Enterobacter among them.

These bacteria are rife in hospitals, offices, gyms and similar enclosed environments that are home to human activity. This is perhaps not all that surprising, given that 230 different people from 18 different countries have visited the ISS and it has been continuously occupied since 2000. But that doesn't make the research any less important, as scientists seek to better understand the microbes that inhabit these environments with a view to developing safety measures for missions to the Moon, Mars or maybe beyond.

"Specific microbes in indoor spaces on Earth have been shown to impact human health," says Dr Kasthuri Venkateswaran from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and author on the new study. "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."

The team published its research in the journal Microbiome.

Source: Microbiome via ScienceDaily

3 comments
Daishi
In terms of killing it I wonder if they could use a laser over the surfaces that will cook bacteria but won't damage the materials.
owlbeyou
If you had a living space on Earth of limited size and inhabited by several people who could not open a window for fresh air, go outside, take morning showers, do the laundry very often and all the other things of daily life, I have no doubt it would become a harbor for all kinds of bacteria and microbial life. This is something that many people, myself included, don't really think about when the ISS and spaceflight are discussed. Sneezing, farting, taking a dump, sweating, changing laundry, shampooing your hair, taking a shower...The potential for an infection from something in the air, on the walls and surfaces of a myriad of things that need to be touched and handled must be quite high. Studies like this are crucial for a future in space for homo sapiens. So when a Soyuz or a SpaceX launch brings supplies to the ISS, we can imagine all the experiments, oxygen tanks, water, fuel, food, disinfectants, instruments, medical supplies, personnel and more...as well as the mundane items that are necessary for daily living in space.
Bill Bennett
Open a door and some windows, air it out.