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NASA finds 'Gym-like' bacteria on International Space Station
NASA to take essential steps to for astronauts' health.
NASA researchers along with an Indian-origin scientist have found a surface on the ISS that is infested with microbes that are found in a gym or office on Earth. The knowledge of these fungal communities on the International Space Station will come in handy to develop safety measures for the space agency for long-term space travel, said researchers.
"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," said Dr Kasthuri Venkateswaran from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and a corresponding author.
The team used traditional culture techniques and gene sequencing methods to examine the surface samples collected from eight different locations such as toilet, dining table, sleeping quarters, during three flights across 14 months.
The scientists found that while fungal communities were stable, microbial communities were similar across locations but changed as time passed. The most prominent bacteria were Staphylococcus, Pantoea, and Bacillus.
"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.
As of now, there are six astronauts on board the ISS. Whether these bacteria could cause diseases in astronauts on the ISS is unknown.
"Regardless, the detection of possible disease-causing organisms highlights the importance of further studies to examine how these ISS microbes function in space," said Dr Checinska Sielaff, the study's first author.
"The results can also have a significant impact on our understanding of other confined built environments on the Earth such as clean rooms used in the pharmaceutical and medical industries," said Dr Venkateswaran.