Scientists have studied microbes living on the ISS

Biologists from the United States first studied the genomes of microbes living on the International Space Station and found that they are most similar to bacteria living on the surface of walls and furniture in apartments, according to an article published in the PeerJ magazine.

“The microbes on board the ISS are very similar to those bacteria that live on the surface of the body of its inhabitants, which, in general, is not surprising, given that the crew of the station is the main” bearer “of these organisms. In general, it can be said that the microflora ISS has a high species diversity, which is very good, as it says that it works and develops in a normal way, “said Jenna Lang of the University of California at Davis, USA.

Relatively recently, Russian cosmonauts who conducted a planned spacewalk, found “living” bacteria on the ISS skin, as well as quite viable spores of fungi and other microorganisms. This discovery has revived controversy about whether life could be brought to Earth from space, and whether living organisms can “travel” in a similar way between planets and even star systems.

The microflora of the station itself is of no less interest. Recent observations of the life of “cosmic” microbes show that the work of many cellular systems of bacteria varies greatly under conditions of weightlessness. This, coupled with the weakening of immunity in space, raises fears that the entry of pathogens on board the ISS can cause serious problems for the health of the crew of the station.

Lang and her colleagues conducted the first “population census” among microbes living on the ISS, with the support of members of the 39th expedition – astronauts Steve Swanson and Rick Mastraccio, as well as Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Tyurin, Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev, and the commander of the station, the Japanese Koichi Wakata.

Before sending to space, scientists gave astronauts and astronauts special sets of cotton buds, flasks and chambers, with which they had to take samples from 15 different objects and surfaces in the American module “Harmony” and in the adjacent NASA laboratory. Some of them, for example, station walls and air vents, rarely contacted the ISS crew, while others, such as pillows, microphones and door handles, constantly interact with the person.

When these samples were frozen and delivered to Earth, scientists extracted microbes from them, multiplied them and deciphered part of their DNA, counting the number of representatives of different species of fungi, bacteria and other inhabitants of the microcosm. These data were compared with the results of observations of microbes living in apartments and houses that were conducted in the framework of the project on studying the microbiome of man and the initiative “Wildlife of Our Homes”.

As these measurements showed, the “space” bacteria were in general similar to their terrestrial relatives – they had a similar species composition and the number of microbes as a whole was quite high. Similar results of the “census” surprised scientists, since they did not expect to see that the ISS, where microbes never get out of the “external” environment, is as rich and large a bunch of bacteria as in ordinary apartments, where they can safely to penetrate from the street.

“On Earth, we are surrounded by innumerable innocuous microbes, and we found about the same community of bacteria on board the ISS.” It can not be said that microbes with the ISS are more malign than the typical bacteria in your living room, “concludes Jonathan Elsen, Lang on the university.