Unknown Strains Of Bacteria Found On International Space Station

By Jason Hall

April 22, 2024

International Space Station, artwork
Photo: Getty Images

Strains of an unknown mutation to a drug-resistant bacteria were recently found on the International Space Station (ISS), NASA confirmed in a post shared on its website last week.

Thirteen strains of the drug-resistant Enterobacter bugandensis were observed as part of a recent study to compare their mutations in an isolated setting to their Earth habitat. The strains were reported to be more resistant to drugs and capable of persisting in abundance in the space setting.

"Closed human-built environments, such as the ISS, are unique areas that provide an extreme environment subject to microgravity, radiation, and elevated carbon dioxide levels," NASA said. "Any microorganisms introduced to these areas must adapt to thrive. By delving into microbial dynamics in extreme environments, this research opens doors to effective preventative measure for astronaut health."

Enterobacter bugandensis is associated with the human digestive system and is believed to be highly adaptive and capable of infecting a host under strange conditions. The bacterium has been linked to numerous clinical infections, most notably neonatal sepsis, which is a blood infection commonly found in infants younger than 90 days.

It's unclear whether the bacteria had a negative affect on the health of the astronauts on the space station, however, researchers confirmed that preventative measures were taken to mitigate possible effects. It also hasn't been determined whether the mutations posed a risk for the global population, though it's believed that the mutations wouldn't be as prevalent under Earth's conditions by comparison to the ISS space conditions.

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