Bacteria on the International Space Station Evolve To Adapt, Not To Threaten Astronauts

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For a long period now, scientists have conducted a lot of studies to assess how dangerous it is to live on the ISS for several months, trying to estimate how threatening would be for humans to travel to deep space.

From cosmic radiations to the possibility of genetic mutations in the microorganisms of the surrounding environment on the spaceships, it seems that everything endangers the health of the astronauts. In a recent study, however, the bacteria on the International Space Station evolve to adapt to harsh conditions, not to threaten the astronauts.

The new study, conducted by Erica Hartmann, an assistant professor with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (DCEE) at NWU, and issued in the American Society for Microbiology journal, revealed that bacteria on the ISS are boasting genetic mutations to adapt to the harsh conditions of space. Accordingly, the microorganisms are not modifying themselves to endanger the health of the astronauts.

Bacteria on the International Space Station Evolve To Adapt, Not To Threaten Astronauts

“There has been a lot of speculation about radiation, microgravity and the lack of ventilation and how that might affect living organisms, including bacteria. These are stressful, harsh conditions. Does the environment select for superbugs because they have an advantage? The answer appears to be ‘no,'” explained Professor Hartmann.

“Based on the genomic analysis, it looks like [bacteria on the International Space Station] are adapting to live – not evolving to cause disease. We didn’t see anything special about antibiotic resistance or virulence in the space station’s bacteria,” also said Ryan Blaustein, the co-worker of Erica Hartmann.

On the other hand, the scientists added that astronauts are ” exceedingly healthy people,” so when space tourism emerges, the researchers don’t know how bacteria would affect the regular human beings. Thus, further study should be conducted before deeming space microorganisms as safe for all people.