A team from Northwestern University in the United States have reached on a conclusion that bacteria found on the International Space Station were associated with different genes other than the bacteria found on Earth. The researchers also established through genetic evidence that bacteria on the ISS could exhibit adaptive behaviors for survival.
They also added that in the course of this evolutionary process for adapting to the harsh conditions on the ISS, the bacteria would not transform into antibiotic-resistant and lethal superbugs. It is evident that the ISS harbors different types of microbes which travel into space through cargo or the astronauts.
Given various space agencies gearing up for manned missions to Mars, the issue of the behavior of these microbes in restricted environments has turned into a focal point of discussion. The researchers found that the additional genes developed by the bacteria isolated from the ISS were only responsible for helping the bacteria in responding and evolving gradually for survival in the harsh environment.
The lead author of the study and Assistant Professor at the University, Erica Hartmann, stated that the impact of radiation, lack of ventilation and microgravity on living organisms had been an area under speculation for a long time. She reflected on the long times for which people would be enclosed in little capsules without the facility for opening doors and circulating air during space travel.
Erica added that the stressful and harsh conditions in space and their impact on microbes should be evaluated to estimate their potential impact after a long duration of stay in space. A contributor to the study and postdoctoral student at the institute, Ryan Blaustein, stated that genomic analysis validated evolution of the bacteria as a response and adapting to live rather than evolving to cause disease.
Blaustein further added that the researchers did not observe anything significant regarding virulence or antibiotic resistance in the bacteria from ISS. This research study may imply that astronauts and possibly space tourists shortly would not have to be afraid of microbial infection. However, the researchers have also pointed out that unhealthy people could be highly proven sources for spreading illness in space.