Bacteria are nomadic creatures. No matter where it gets, it acts like being home. And boy, does bacteria travels! One of its last idiosyncrasies is the water on the ISS.
As surprisingly as it might seem, and defying all the drastic measures of NASA, Burkholderia cepacia and Burkholderia contaminant got there. And bacteria don’t play. It got right into the water decontamination system and created there a long chain of descendants. They ruined the water supply and recycling system.
That wasn’t very comfortable, as the astronauts had to ask the Russians for help, and use their back-up water system. There is something good in the experience, as scientists love such problems. If they don’t occur naturally, they create the problems themselves by sending bacteria up there just to see how they behave.
Bacteria Contaminated The Water On The ISS
The two species that got there incognito, and most likely with the unknown help of man, proved to be a good breed. They didn’t disappoint their earthly origin and didn’t do any more damage than they would normally do here on Earth.
They are not as dramatic as Hollywood movies make them. They didn’t alienate, and they don’t kill just by looking at them, they are still impossible to see with the naked eye. They are within the normal range: they can even enter human immune cells and split them open, and they are still resilient to antibiotics, just like they are here and no more.
The water dispenser is at the ISS since 2009. It is not that easy to carry water there; it is not like buying a bottle from the vending machine, so the astronauts got used to drinking recycled water. The water is filtered with the help of iodine, the well-known bacteria killer. Now, as the recycling system must be changed, specialists are considering silver as the new aid of iodine. We’ll see how bacteria feel about that change.