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Bacteria Has Mutated On The International Space Station Into Something We've Never Seen Before

Scientists have found new strains of Bacteria on the ISS. Should we be worried?

ISS

On the International Space Station, bacteria have changed into a type that has never been seen before on Earth. Thirteen different types of bacteria were found on the ISS.

The majority of the bacteria we encounter are not harmful, but there are times when they can be. One type that can make you sick is Enterobacter bugandensis, which was found in 2018 on the International Space Station. According to earlier research, the bacteria has been linked to "severe clinical infection."

When the multidrug-resistant bacteria was first found on the ISS, there were five types known. However, more research has since shown that there are now thirteen strains.

As you might guess, the microbes and bacteria that live with astronauts on the ISS have a big impact on their health and well-being. That's why it's very worrying when a possibly harmful bacterial starts to change.

Bacteria and Fungi found on the ISS
Bacteria and Fungi found on the ISS

Even though the ISS is said to have a "highly controlled environment" with "microgravity, increased CO2 levels, and elevated solar radiation," microorganisms are still living there. Some bacteria that are exposed to microgravity may even become more resistant to antibiotics and more dangerous through fast mutations and horizontal gene transfer.

A study that came out in March of this year says that the bacteria is an opportunistic pest. In other words, it will only make someone sick if they already have a sickness or a weak immune system for some other reason. This happens to pilots all the time who have been in space for a long time.

In order to protect the health of humans, scientists need to know how bacteria might change in space. This is what the study set out to do.

The study talks about how the disease can hurt a person: "Enterobacter species act as opportunistic human pathogens, causing nosocomial infections with bacteremia, lower respiratory tract, osteomyelitis, sepsis, and urinary tract infection."

The study goes on to say this about what "drives" the bacteria: "A central hypothesis of our study was that the unique stresses of the space environment, which are different from those on Earth, could be driving these genomic adaptations."

The results should "offer a window into the microbial ecosystem dynamics within the ISS," which is meant to lower the risks that astronauts may face from possible pathogenic threats.