Bacteria on the ISS is no more dangerous than earthbound strains, Two stubborn bacteria have colonized drinking water dispensers above the International Space Station (ISS). However, a new study shows that they are no more dangerous than closely related tribes on Earth.
Shortly after the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) installed a water distributor on the ISS board in 2009, regular samples showed that two bacteria, Burkholderia cepacia and then pollutants from Burkholderia, polluted drinking water.
These microbes belong to the group of related Burkholderia species, which cause opportunistic lung infections in people with underlying diseases and are very difficult to kill using standard sterilization techniques. Bacteria on the ISS is no more dangerous than earthbound strains.
Although washed regularly with an iodine cleaning solution with additional starch, the bacteria remain in a watery dispenser.
To learn more about these bacteria, the researchers sorted the genomes of 24 strains collected from 2010 to 2014.
All strains of B. cepacia and B. contaminants are very similar and may originate from the original populations of these two bacteria that were in the water dispenser when they left the earth.
The researchers concluded that the two types of bacteria that live in donors are no more dangerous than similar types that can appear on Earth. If an infection occurs, the bacteria can continue to be treated with general antibiotics. Bacteria on the ISS is no more dangerous than earthbound strains.
The authors add: Within each species, 19 B. cepacia and 5 B. contaminants from ISS are very similar across the genome, indicating that each population can originate from two different main strains.
Differences can be observed between isolates of the same species, especially on suspected plasmids.
The researchers said: We found that the Burkholder population present in the PWS ISS could not possibly be more virulent than could be found on this planet because they retained their initial ability to lyse macrophages, but remained susceptible to the clinical antibiotics used.