The Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT) Madras and researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have studied the interactions between microbes on the International Space Station (ISS). The study will help devise strategies for the disinfection of space stations to minimize any potential impact of microbes on the health of astronauts.
IIT Madras in an official statement stated: “Crews, during space flights, may have impaired immunity and limited access to ground medical facilities. Therefore, studying the microbes that inhabit the space station becomes important to understand the risks associated with short- and long-term space travel to the health of astronauts.”
The present study was motivated by previous observations of the dominance of Klebsiella pneumoniae on ISS surfaces. This pathogen is known to cause pneumonia and other nosocomial infections. The researchers were very interested in understanding how this bacterium affects the growth of other microbes in the vicinity and what potential implications this might have, says a statement.
The researchers analyzed data from microbial samples taken on three spaceflights at seven locations on the ISS. The study found that Klebsiella pneumoniae, a main microbe residing on the ISS, is beneficial to several other microbes that are also present on the ISS, especially bacteria of the genus Pantoea.
Karthik Raman, Associate Professor at the Bhupat & Jyoti Mehta School of Biosciences and Senior Fellow at the Robert Bosch Center for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (RBCDSAI), IIT Madras, collaborated with Kasthuri Venkateswaran, Principal Research Scientist at JPL, according to the notice.
Highlighting the need for such research, Raman said the microbiome of the built environment has a huge impact on human health. Controlled environments, like the ISS, are home to a variety of organisms, and unraveling their interactions is key to a better appreciation of the factors that shape the microbiome, even under extreme conditions.”
“The interaction between microbes is also affected by these adverse environmental conditions in space, which requires such studies. Greater knowledge about microbes in space can help design appropriate safety measures for long-term space travel,” said Venkateswaran, a senior research scientist at JPL. He collaborated with Karthik Raman, Associate Professor at the Bhupat, and Jyoti Mehta School of Biosciences, IIT-M.
This study provides evidence of why it is important to monitor the ISS microbiome. Monitor what microbes are on the ISS and learn how they adapt in microgravity to help protect the health of astronauts, the statement added.
This bacterial family includes members like E. coli, Salmonella, etc., which are also present in the human intestine. This bacterial family was found to be the most beneficial among the other microbes present on the ISS.
Kasthuri Venkateswaran, a senior research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said that one of the ways microbes get into the sealed and locked space station is through crew members. However, the environment on the space station is different from that on Earth.
The interaction between microbes is also affected by these adverse environmental conditions in space, which makes this type of study necessary. Greater knowledge about microbes in space can help design appropriate safety measures for long-term space travel.
- Sarbal Village: A hamlet in Kashmir waiting for development
- Farmers in MP face crop failure every year due to climate change
- Climate Change: Kishanganga Dam causes water concerns