May 27, 2024 at 12:38 pm

Bacteria Growing On The International Space Station Has Mutated Into Something Never Before Seen On Earth

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Twitter/@astrobiology

You might think of bacteria as something to be avoided – a little bug that can make you sick and ruin your perfectly good weekend.

And while it is that, bacteria is also everywhere. There are harmful sorts, but others that are neutral and even some that are helpful to our bodies and environment.

What’s growing on and in the the International Space Station (ISS) though, is entirely new.

The bacteria in question are Enterobacter bugandensis. It’s a pathogen, meaning that it can cause disease in the right setting, and is notorious for being resistant to many popular drugs.

Source: Public Domain

Five strains were found on the ISS in 2018, and those have morphed into thirteen strains as of recent work reports. In-depth genetic analysis revealed that the strains have mutated and evolved to become genetically and functionally distinct from their Earthly relative.

A study detailing the research was published in Microbiome.

“We identified certain genes from our study that are exclusively present in organisms associated with the ISS, but not in their terrestrial counterpart.”

It’s essential as we send more astronauts into space that we understand how to keep them healthy, and how we can help them fight off mutated bacteria like this.

Scientists believe that their adaptations related to microgravity might be the answer in fighting it.

“These genes could potentially serve as valuable targets for therapeutics against pathogenic microorganisms in the unique environment of the ISS.”

Source: Shutterstock

Research is still ongoing, and scientists are not willing to say that the strains evolved because of space and space alone. That said, there is compelling evidence that is the case.

They will continue to try to learn more about it, and determine how they’re able to thrive in low-gravity, high-radiation, elevated-carbon-dioxide environments like those found on the ISS.

If you thought that was interesting, you might like to read about a quantum computer simulation that has “reversed time” and physics may never be the same.