International Space Station infested with bacteria "Like Gym on Earth", says NASA

International Space Station infested with bacteria

Some of the microbes pose health risks on Earth, such as Staphylococcus aureus - often found on the skin and inside the nose - and Enterobacter, which is associated with the digestive tract.

'Specific microbes in these indoor spaces have been shown to impact human health by influencing our susceptibility to allergies, infectious diseases, or sick building syndrome, ' he added.

Kasthuri also made it clear that determining the microbes in spacecraft will be quite crucial while conducting long space flights including future Mars missions.

Microflora can have a range of impacts on human health, so it pays to know exactly what you're up against - especially in space.

In addition to the danger of disease, the forming bacteria could lead to mechanical blockages on the station's infrastructure as it causes "microbial-induced" corrosion back on Earth. They argue that the integrity of the ISS itself should also be investigated, given that some of the microbes they found are associated with corrosion. The most prominent bacteria were Staphylococcus (26% of total isolates), Pantoea (23%) and Bacillus (11%).

Despite the exotic setting, the team used pretty run-of-the-mill culture techniques to sample the microflora of eight different locations inside the ISS.

The scientists found that while fungal communities were stable, microbial communities were similar across locations but changed as time passed.

"On Earth, they are predominant in gyms, offices, and hospitals, which suggests that the ISS is similar to other built environments where the microbiome is shaped by human occupation", the study noted. Samples taken during the second flight mission had higher microbial diversity than samples collected during the first and third missions.

And numerous organisms detected on the ISS are known to form biofilms that belong to both bacterial (Acinetobacter, Sphingomonas, Bacillus, Burkholderia, Corynebacterium, and Klebsiella) and fungal (Penicillium, Aspergillus, Cryptococcus, and Rhodotorula) genera.

Explaining "the potential ability to form biofilms and the magnitude of actual biofilm formation on ISS surfaces is important during long-term space missions to maintain structural stability of the crew vehicle when routine indoor maintenance can not be easily performed", the report reads. The study was published in the journal Microbiome, and it was the first to provide a comprehensive catalog of the fungi and bacteria that can be found lurking on interior surfaces in closed space systems.

The research could "also have significant impact on our understanding of other confined built environments on the Earth such as clean rooms used in the pharmaceutical and medical industries", Venkateswaran said.

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