Nav: Home

The bacterial community on the International Space Station resembles homes

December 05, 2017

Microbiologists at the University of California, Davis who analyzed swabs taken by astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) and compared them with samples from homes on earth as well as the Human Microbiome Project found that the microbial community in this unique habitat was very diverse and more closely resembled that of homes than of humans.

This study, titled "A microbial survey of the International Space Station (ISS)" was published today, Tuesday December 5th, in PeerJ, a peer-reviewed open access journal.

This work was part of a nationwide citizen science project called Project MERCCURI. The project is a collaboration between UC Davis and other organizations including Science Cheerleader, a group of current and former professional cheerleaders pursuing careers in science and math.

Previous work from the same Project MERCCURI team sent 48 bacterial samples, collected around the country, to the ISS and described a bacteria that grew better in space than on Earth.

Now the researchers analyzed bacteria found on 15 locations on the ISS and highlighted some of the thousands of species they found there. They then compared their data on the species to published data sets from two other projects: the "Wildlife of Our Homes," study, which evaluated home microbiomes, and surveys of human body sites from the Human Microbiome Project.

"So 'is it gross?' and 'will you see microbes from space?' are probably the two most common questions we get about this work," said author David Coil, a microbiologist at UC Davis. "As to the first, we are completely surrounded by mostly harmless microbes on Earth, and we see a broadly similar microbial community on the ISS. So it is probably no more or less gross than your living room."

Regarding finding microbes from space, "Since the ISS is completely enclosed, the microbes inside the station come from the people on the ISS and the supplies sent to them," he said.

Jenna Lang, former postdoctoral scholar at UC Davis and lead author on the study, agreed.

"The microbiome on the surfaces on the ISS looks very much like the surfaces of its inhabitants, which is not surprising, given that they are the primary source," she said. "We were also pleased to see is that the diversity was fairly high, indicating that it did not look like a 'sick' microbial community."

Jonathan Eisen, professor of medical microbiology and immunology and of ecology and evolution at UC Davis and another author on the study, believes Project MERCURRI studies have a lot of value.

"Studying the microbial diversity on the ISS is not only of relevance to space exploration but also serves as an important comparison to buildings on Earth because the ISS has many novel features such as limited influx of microbes," he said.
-end-
About: Project MERCCURI was coordinated by Science Cheerleader, SciStarter, and UC Davis, in conjunction with the Argonne National Laboratory. The project was supported by funds provided by Space Florida, NanoRacks, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Images:

Image 1. International Space Station. This file is in the public domain in the United States because it was solely created by NASA.

Image 2: Project MERCCURI swabs being retrieved after splashdown in February 2015. Photo credit: Carl Carruthers

Image 3: Project MERCCURI team at Cape Canaveral just before launch in April 2014. Photo credit: David Coil

Full Media Pack including image: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1U6lmc3rS-PbbusbyJB3gelC8BDWonBqr

EMBARGOED until December 5, 2017: 7 am EST; 12 midday UK local time (i.e. the date of publication)

PDF of this Press Release: http://static.peerj.com/pressReleases/2017/12/Press-Release-Coil.pdf

Link to the Published Version of the article: https://peerj.com/articles/4029 (quote this link in your story - the link will ONLY work after the embargo lifts)

Abstract (from the article):

Background: Modern advances in sequencing technology have enabled the census of microbial members of many natural ecosystems. Recently, attention is increasingly being paid to the microbial residents of human-made, built ecosystems, both private (homes) and public (subways, office buildings, and hospitals). Here, we report results of the characterization of the microbial ecology of a singular built environment, the International Space Station (ISS). This ISS sampling involved the collection and microbial analysis (via 16S rDNA PCR) of 15 surfaces sampled by swabs onboard the ISS. This sampling was a component of Project MERCCURI (Microbial Ecology Research Combining Citizen and University Researchers on ISS). Learning more about the microbial inhabitants of the "buildings" in which we travel through space will take on increasing importance, as plans for human exploration continue, with the possibility of colonization of other planets and moons.

Results: Sterile swabs were used to sample 15 surfaces onboard the ISS. The sites sampled were designed to be analogous to samples collected for 1) the Wildlife of Our Homes project and 2) a study of cell phones and shoes that were concurrently being collected for another component of Project MERCCURI. Sequencing of the 16S rDNA genes amplified from DNA extracted from each swab was used to produce a census of the microbes present on each surface sampled. We compared the microbes found on the ISS swabs to those from both homes on Earth and data from the Human Microbiome Project.

Conclusions: While significantly different from homes on Earth and the Human Microbiome Project samples analyzed here, the microbial community composition on the ISS was more similar to home surfaces than to the human microbiome samples. The ISS surfaces are species-rich with 1036-4294 operational taxonomic units (OTUs per sample). There was no discernible biogeography of microbes on the 15 ISS surfaces, although this may be a reflection of the small sample size we were able to obtain

About:

PeerJ is an Open Access publisher of two peer-reviewed journals and a preprint server. PeerJ's mission is to help the world efficiently publish its knowledge. All works published by PeerJ are Open Access and published using a Creative Commons license (CC-BY 4.0). PeerJ is based in San Diego, CA and the UK and can be accessed at peerj.com

PeerJ is the peer-reviewed journal for Biology, Medicine and Environmental Sciences. PeerJ has recently added 15 areas in environmental science subject areas, including Natural Resource Management, Climate Change Biology, and Environmental Impacts. peerj.com/environmental-sciences

PeerJ has an Editorial Board of over 1,900 respected academics, including 5 Nobel Laureates. PeerJ was the recipient of the 2013 ALPSP Award for Publishing Innovation. PeerJ Media Resources (including logos) can be found at: peerj.com/about/press

Media Contacts

For the authors:

David Coil
coil.david@gmail.com

For PeerJ: press@peerj.com , https://peerj.com/about/press/

Note: If you would like to join the PeerJ Press Release list, please register at: http://bit.ly/PressList

PeerJ

Related Microbes Articles:

What can be learned from the microbes on a turtle's shell?
Research published in the journal Microbiology has found that a unique type of algae, usually only seen on the shells of turtles, affects the surrounding microbial communities.
Life, liberty -- and access to microbes?
Poverty increases the risk for numerous diseases by limiting people's access to healthy food, environments and stress-free conditions.
Rye is healthy, thanks to an interplay of microbes
Eating rye comes with a variety of health benefits. A new study from the University of Eastern Finland now shows that both lactic acid bacteria and gut bacteria contribute to the health benefits of rye.
Gut microbes may affect the course of ALS
Researchers isolated a molecule that may be under-produced in the guts of patients.
Gut microbes associated with temperament traits in children
Scientists in the FinnBrain research project of the University of Turku discovered that the gut microbes of a 2.5-month-old infant are associated with the temperament traits manifested at six months of age.
Gut microbes eat our medication
Researchers have discovered one of the first concrete examples of how the microbiome can interfere with a drug's intended path through the body.
Microbes can grow on nitric oxide
Nitric oxide (NO) is a central molecule of the global nitrogen cycle.
Microbes help make the coffee
When it comes to processing coffee beans, longer fermentation times can result in better taste, contrary to conventional wisdom.
Space microbes aren't so alien after all
A new Northwestern University study has found that -- despite its seemingly harsh conditions -- the ISS is not causing bacteria to mutate into dangerous, antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
Nutrient-recycling microbes may feel the heat
While microbial communities are the engines driving the breakdown of dead plants and animals, little is known about whether they are equipped to handle big changes in climate.
More Microbes News and Microbes Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#566 Is Your Gut Leaking?
This week we're busting the human gut wide open with Dr. Alessio Fasano from the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. Join host Anika Hazra for our discussion separating fact from fiction on the controversial topic of leaky gut syndrome. We cover everything from what causes a leaky gut to interpreting the results of a gut microbiome test! Related links: Center for Celiac Research and Treatment website and their YouTube channel
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.