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Super bugs "supercharging" on the International Space Station

Researchers have found that life on the International Space Station (ISS) can change & # 39; super bugs & # 39;

Researchers and microbiologists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, have found that there are five different types of Enterobacter in the toilet and training area on the ISS.

Previous research has shown that living in space changes bugs in a way and causes them to be "supercharged" because they adapt to new environments in space. This causes mutations in microbes and changes them. Even certain bacteria are found to experience more than a dozen mutations when in space and this increases their capacity to multiply.

See from ISS. Image Credit: Dima Zel / NASA / Shutterstock

See from ISS. Image Credit: Dima Zel / NASA / Shutterstock

These bacteria form biofilms on equipment and biofilm growth is recorded faster than the growth of similar biofilms on earth. This marks the rapid multiplication of these bacteria.

Dr. Nitin Singh, the first author of the study, said, "Given the results of multi-drug resistance to this ISS genome and the increased likelihood of pathogenicity that we have identified, this species has the potential to cause important health considerations for future missions … However, it is important to understand that strains found on ISS are not malignant, which means they are not an active threat to human health, but something that must be monitored. "

However, computer modeling and simulation shows that these altered bacteria have a 79 percent chance of being virulent and causing human disease. On earth these bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics and can only infect them with compromised immunity. This may not be so in space, the team explained because they have 112 similar genes with pathogenic bacteria on earth.

This Enterobacter space strain was found to be resistant to antibiotics such as cefazolin, cefoxitin, oxacillin, penicillin and rifampin and others.

JPL routinely analyzes microbes from the space station to check whether they can harm astronauts in any way or affect sensitive equipment. Microbiologist Kasthuri Venkateswaran said in a statement, "To show which bacterial species are on the ISS, we use various methods to characterize their genes in detail. We revealed that the genome of five strains of Enterobacter ISS is genetically most similar to the three newly discovered strains on Earth. "He added," These three strains belong to one species of bacteria, called Enterobacter bugandensis, which has been found to cause illness in neonates and compromised patients, who were treated at three different hospitals (in East Africa, the states of Washington and Colorado). "

These samples are from 2015. Venkateswaran said, "Whether or not such opportunistic pathogens are good or not E. bugandensis Cause disease and how much the threat depends on various factors, including environmental ones … Further in vivo research is needed to distinguish the impact that conditions on the ISS, such as microgravity, other spaces, and space-related factors, may be about pathogenicity and virulence. "


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