NASA has conducted a census of the microbes living on the ISS

Specialists of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) spent cataloging microorganisms and fungi that live on board the International Space Station. We are not talking about living organisms that have been deliberately delivered to the ISS to experiment and explore. We are talking about microbes and fungi, which are free to live on the station. Scientists want to find out how these organisms influence the health of the crew station and what impact they have on various systems of the ISS. In the future it will help to develop more effective methods of protection against microbes in the conditions of long-term space missions to deep space.

NASA has conducted a census of the microbes living on the ISS

A study published in the open access journal in Microbiome. Press release published on the site EurekAlert!

Despite the fact that ISS is a closed system, there live various microorganisms. How are they there? From life-support systems, the spacecraft arriving with new supplies and crews. For maximum coverage and evaluation of their number at the plant researchers asked three different crew stations to collect samples in eight areas of the ISS: next to the viewing porthole in the bathroom next to the area of ​​exercise, in the dining room, sleeping area, inside a multifunctional module, as well as laboratory.

NASA has conducted a census of the microbes living on the ISS

Places where samples were taken for analysis

"Microbes in the world areas have different effects on human health. Crew station is more important, as they have changed the immune system, they can not apply to a specialized medical institution with sophisticated equipment. From the perspective of future long-term missions is important to determine the types of microorganisms that build up in a closed environment, the duration of their existence and their influence on the human body ", - says Kasturi Venkateswaran, one of the study participants.

In the study, it was found that the station mostly live microbes associated with a person. From Staphylococcus bacteria were most pronounced (26% of isolates), Pantoea (23%) and Bacillus (11%). Among the fungi most stood out Rhodotorula mucilaginosa and Penicillium chrysogenum.

The samples showed a high content of microorganisms that are in the world are considered opportunistic pathogens, meaning they do not cause disease in healthy people with strong immune systems. Among them: Staphylococcus aureus (10% of the total number of isolates identified), typically live on the skin and airways, and Enterobacter. It is associated with the gastrointestinal tract of humans. On Earth, they are prevalent in areas subjected to regular disinfection: gyms, offices and hospitals. This means that the ISS is similar to an artificial environment where the microbiome is formed as a result of human activity. One of the study's authors, Dr. Chechinska Silaf notes that it is unclear whether these opportunistic bacteria cause illness in the crew station.

The researchers also reported an interesting fact. Unlike fungal formations which always remained stable, the variety of microbes changed. Thus, in samples taken in the framework of the second flight, a larger variety was found in comparison with the samples taken during the first and the third flight. Scientists suggest that this difference is due to the presence on the station different astronauts.

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