High-Tech Methods Study Bacteria on a International Space Station

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The International Space Station, as seen from space convey Atlantis in 2011. Image credit: NASA

The International Space Station, as seen from space convey Atlantis in 2011. Image credit: NASA

Where there are people, there are bacteria, even in space. But what kinds of germ are benefaction where astronauts live and work?

Researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, in partnership with colleagues during other institutions, used state-of-the-art molecular investigate to try a microbial sourroundings on a International Space Station. They afterwards compared these formula to a germ found in purify rooms, that are tranquil and entirely spotless laboratory environments on Earth. They news their commentary in a open entrance biography Microbiome.

Examining samples from an atmosphere filter and a opening dirt bag from a space station, researchers found opportunistic bacterial pathogens that are mostly harmless on Earth though can lead to infections that outcome in inflammations or skin irritations. In general, they found that a tellurian skin-associated germ Corynebacterium and Propionibacterium (Actinobacteria) though not Staphylococcus were some-more abounding on a hire than in Earth-based purify rooms.

“Studying a microbial village on a space hire helps us improved know a germ benefaction there, so that we can brand class that could potentially repairs apparatus or poise harms to wanderer health. It also helps us brand areas that need some-more severe cleaning,” pronounced Kasthuri Venkateswaran, who led a investigate during JPL with collaborators Aleksandra Checinska, a study’s initial author, and Parag Vaishampayan.

The commentary of this investigate assistance NASA settle a baseline for monitoring a cleanliness of a space station, that will in spin assistance conduct wanderer health in a future. However, with this sold form of DNA analysis, researchers could not interpretation either these germ are damaging to wanderer health.

The space hire is a singular environment, featuring microgravity, space radiation, towering CO dioxide and consistent participation of humans. Understanding a inlet of a communities of microbes — what scientists call “the microbiome” — in a space hire is pivotal to handling wanderer health and upkeep of equipment.

Previous studies of a hire have used normal microbiology techniques, that enlightenment germ and fungi in a lab, to consider a combination of a microbial community. Now, Venkateswaran and colleagues are regulating a latest DNA sequencing technologies to fast and precisely brand a microorganisms benefaction on a space station.

“Deep sequencing allows us to get a closer demeanour during a microbial race than with normal methods,” Venkateswaran said.

The group compared samples from a station’s atmosphere filter and opening bag with dirt from dual JPL purify rooms. While purify bedrooms disseminate uninformed air, a space hire filters and recirculates existent air. Also, importantly, there are always 6 people vital on a space station, since a cleanroom might see 50 people go in and out in a day, though not be inhabited continuously. Clean bedrooms are not airtight, though there are several layers of bedrooms that would forestall a giveaway sell of atmosphere particulates.

The researchers analyzed a samples for microorganisms, and afterwards stained their cells with a color to establish either they were vital or dead. This enabled them to magnitude a distance and farrago of viable bacterial and fungal populations, and establish how closely a conditions in a Earth purify bedrooms review with a space hire environment.

Their formula uncover that Actinobacteria done adult a incomparable suit of a microbial village in a space hire than in a cleanrooms. The authors interpretation that this could be due to a some-more difficult cleaning regimens probable on Earth. The investigate did not residence a distress of these pathogens in sealed environments or a risk of skin infection to astronauts.

Using these newer DNA sequencing technologies, researchers could also, in a future, investigate how microgravity affects bacteria. The stream meditative is that microgravity is not auspicious to bacterial presence generally, though that some class that can withstand it might turn some-more virulent. Such investigate will be critical for long-duration space missions, such as NASA’s tour to Mars.

Other investigate co-authors embody Alexander J. Probst of a University of California, Berkeley; James R. White of Resphera Biosciences, Baltimore; Deepika Kumar, Victor G. Stepanov, and George E. Fox of a University of Houston, Texas; Henrik R. Nilsson of a University of Gothenburg, Sweden; Duane L. Pierson of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston; and Jay Perry of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama.

This investigate was carried out on a rival extend awarded by a NASA Space Biology program. The California Institute of Technology manages JPL for NASA.

Source: JPL