space microbes aren’t so alien after all

January 8, 2019

The link is to a great article about bacteria adapting to the harsh conditions of the International Space Station (ISS)!   There are thousands of different microbes in the ISS.   They all have mutated to cope with the stressful environment of space.   We have discussed the high mutation rate of bacteria in class and this is well illustrated through the study.

The study did a fine job of engaging the public by including rhetoric that captivates the public’s imagination. The article included reference to the study of bacteria in preparation for voyages to mars and subdued concern of any health risk in space bacteria could pose.   Additionally the author included many factors that could affect bacterial colonization, and posed questions and parameters a scientist would consider in studying bacteria in space.   The Author also used specific strands of bacteria to further inform readers.   I found the perimeters scientists thought may effect bacterial growth (radiation, microgravity, and lack of ventilation to be interesting.

I am curious to know more about the mutations these bacteria have undergone, and what selection pressures led to these mutations.

Ryan A. Blaustein, Alexander G. McFarland, Sarah Ben Maamar, Alberto Lopez, Sarah Castro-Wallace, Erica M. Hartmann.

1 Comment for “space microbes aren’t so alien after all”



I never really thought about the microscopic risks in space, rather, I was preoccupied with the fear of asteroids and system malfunctions. Nonetheless, the risks bacterial superbugs pose could be out of this world. I like your analysis because it specifies the simple, easy-to-understand portions of the article. I also find the scientist’s perimeters interesting because those are unusual situations, but they put space-travel conditions in a more relevant perspective for me.
Here’s what I found from the original paper from Northwestern:
-“ISS/BE-enriched functions were often involved in biosynthesis, catabolism, materials transport, metabolism, and stress response”
-“Viable members of the ISS microbiome are presumably acclimated to selective pressures of the BE (e.g., low-nutrient, dry settings) as well as spaceflight (e.g., microgravity, elevated CO2, and cosmic radiation)”
-BE stands for the built environment within the ISS.
Hope this helps answer your question.

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