Issue #4(22) 2019 Specials

Surviving bacteria in space

Nissem Abdeljelil National Center for Nuclear Science & Technologies, Tunisia
Najla Ben Miloud National Center for Nuclear Science & Technologies, Tunisia

Research has shown that bacteria are surprisingly resistant organisms, both on Earth and in space, especially when they form ‘biofilms’. The relative isolation of astronaut crews poses a particular challenge to the field of biohazard management and this will only increase for future missions to the Moon and Mars. This article, based on a presentation at the Asgardia Space Science & Investment Congress (ASIC) in Darmstadt, Germany, in October, explains some of the issues and describes the state of play in this research.

Earth-born microorganisms are champions of the survival game: they have populated our planet for at least three billion years and succeeded in overcoming the most terrible catastrophes and numerous environmental changes. Because they are often harmful to human health and equipment, their persistence poses problems for sectors such as medical services, the drugs industry and the food industry. Bacteria, for example, are capable of surviving chemical treatments and even ‘share their survival tips’ with bacterial cells from other species, creating a diverse army of resistant cells on the surfaces of hardware and products.

This is an even bigger issue for humans operating in remote, isolated and hostile locations – such as those experienced by submarine crews and astronauts in space - where health services and technical support are very limited.

In the case of astronauts, living in microgravity and being exposed to cosmic radiations causes many physiological disturbances including the dysregulation of the immune system, which increases the risk for infectious diseases and medical complications. In addition, currently adopted decontamination protocols have shown only partial effectiveness, giving germs the opportunity to persist and grow again.

To continue reading this premium article, subscribe now for unlimited access to all online content

If you already have a login and password to access www.room.eu.com - Please log in to be able to read all the articles of the site.

Popular articles

See also

Astronautics

Japan’s H-IIA rocket: beautiful, accurate, and on-time

Opinion

Eyes on the prize

Lounge

Astronauts having a laugh

Popular articles

Small satellite orbiting Earth in a low Earth orbit. Astronautics

Taking quantum into space

Women of NASA (top from left): Dr Swati Mohan (NASA) and, Dr Moogega Cooper (NBC Universal) and (centre from left): MiMi Aung [National Academy of Engineering]and Dr Vandana Verma (IEEE), with (bottom): Diana Trujillo (NASA). Astronautics

NASA’s women of inspiration