Super-Bacteria Found on the International Space Station » Explorersweb | Space

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The International Space Station seems like the least likely place you would catch an infection. Yet over the years, numerous bacteria have made it onto the ISS. They are not only thriving, they are mutating into something never before seen on Earth.

The new strains are both genetically and functionally different from their original terrestrial selves. The odd conditions of space have somehow made them more resistant to antibiotics and other treatment. The microgravity, solar radiation, and high carbon dioxide levels that the bacteria experience in low orbit have forced them to evolve into a kind of super-bacteria.

Potentially harmful

The new study focuses on Enterobacter bugandensis. Here on Earth, it is linked to neonatal blood infections that cause sepsis, endocarditis, and urinary, skin, and soft tissue infections. Luckily, it tends only to affect the immuno-compromised. On Earth, it is already notoriously resistant to treatment. But nothing like it is in space.

In 2018, researchers began looking at the microorganisms aboard the ISS. They discovered several fungi and bacteria. Clearly, all of them hitchhiked there via the almost 300 visiting astronauts. In that initial study, five strains of E. Bugandensis had made it into space. Now there are 13, according to new research. Four live in the ISS air system, one on an exercise machine, and perhaps not…


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