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article imageInfectious bacteria on-board the International Space Station

By Tim Sandle     Nov 29, 2018 in Science
The International Space Station hosts some less desirable strains of bacteria, with the organism Enterobacter bugandensis having been identified from samples taken from the toilets used by the astronauts.
In total five Enterobacter bugandensis strains were isolated, being detected in a space toilet and on the exercise platform. This as was part of an exercise to characterize the bacterial communities that live on surfaces inside the space station. The study revealed that the ISS Enterobacter has an increased probability of pathogenicity for humans.
Enterobacter bugandensis exists as a nosocomial (hospital) pathogen and it can cause life-threatening infections in neonates and immunocompromised patients. In particular has been associated with associated with neonatal sepsis. With Enterobacter species in general, the urinary and respiratory tracts are the most common sites of infection.
Low-temperature electron micrograph of a cluster of E. coli bacteria  magnified 10 000 times.
Low-temperature electron micrograph of a cluster of E. coli bacteria, magnified 10,000 times.
What was also of concern, as BioExpert reports, are that the species isolated potentially pose important health considerations for future missions. This remains a potential, as it is unknown what the influence of microgravity is upon the pathogenicity. of such bacteria. In terms of origin, it was unsurprising that the genomes of the five ISS Enterobacter strains were genetically similar to three strains found on Earth.
However, as reported by the Daily Mail Dr. Nitin Singh, the lead author on the report, said: “Given the multi-drug resistance results for these [bacteria] and the increased chance of pathogenicity we have identified, these species potentially pose important health considerations for future missions.”
In terms of the potential pathogenicity to humans, the PathogenFinder algorithm showed there was a greater than 79 percent probability of these organisms causing infection should they enter the bloodstream. PathogenFinder is a web-server for the prediction of bacterial pathogenicity by analysing the input proteome (the entire set of proteins that is, or can be, expressed by an organism at a certain time), genome, or raw reads provided by the user.
The new finding, which highlights how humans can contaminate any place they visit, has been published in the journal BMC Microbiology, under the title "Multi-drug resistant Enterobacter bugandensis species isolated from the International Space Station and comparative genomic analyses with human pathogenic strains."
More about Bacteria, International Space Station, Microbes
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