Where people go, our bacterial followers will follow. This is true in space, as it is on Earth, and although we are aware that there are microbial astronauts in the International Space Station, one group of researchers has just found a new reason to excite them.
The genomics of the samples collected from the space toilet located at the station on board revealed, among other things, that some ISS bacteria have genes that confer resistance to antibiotics. Researchers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory) claim that there is currently no threat to astronauts, but it is a reminder that the space station in a limited environment could be harmful to the bacteria.
In this new study, researchers detailed the genomes of these species and compared their genomes with 1291 genomes Enterobacter strains from the earth. And, studying the genetic makeup of bacteria, they could see that bacteria are more likely to be resistant to antibacterial agents.
Danger of microbial disease
Nitin Singh, the first author of the study, stressed in a statement that these strains are not virulent, which means that they do not cause active or immediate threat to astronauts. But, Singh added that one of the strains found Enterobacter bugandensis is an opportunistic pathogen, which means it can cause the disease. Admitted that the analysis of a kind of computer revealed that it really posed a significant risk of harming people in the future.
Work was part of an effort to better understand how the future of microbes in space would affect people's lives in space.
"Understanding how microbial life grows in a closed environment, such as ISS, will help us better prepare for health problems associated with space travel," Singh writes. "The ISS offers us the first opportunity to explore the often-released aspect of space travel: how the spacecraft's microbial and life support system interact," says Singh
The closed system at the space station is a unique environment for bacteria and other microorganisms. Just like the microbial plant, adapts and multiplies here on Earth, they will do the same in space. The equipment and storage on the space station have remained in a clean place, but microscopic organisms will find shelter and adapt to survive. As researchers have found, some of these adjustments could include mutations that give antibiotic resistance and make the bacteria very difficult to fight.
With better understanding of species at the space station, researchers are hoping to understand how best to protect astronauts. For example, they could know when and how often to clean certain equipment on board, Singh said.
While space-based stationary bacterial species do not present the present risk, the human immune system is endangered by space, Singh explains. So, future deep space missions, where astronauts could spend more space in space, and bacteria could have more time to adapt and multiply, the risk of infection could be higher.
"When the immune system begins to weaken, the microbes that were previously harmless can make you sick," Singh said.
This study was published in the journal BMC Microbiology.