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Online Discussion: Tracking new emerging diseases and the next pandemic

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    Posted: October 27 2015 at 4:23am
International Space Station is Swarming with Germs

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have been warned the satellite is swarming with infectious germs - which could give them ACNE.

Analysis of dust samples from the station have found it is a prime breeding ground for bacteria which causes skin breakouts.The findings by NASA scientists could lead to a much stricter cleaning regime on board the space station if astronauts are to avoid spotty skin and other ailments.

The Space Station could also be infected with a strain of bacteria which could cause the deadly disease diptheria.The test was only able to pick up the genus of the bacteria, which means they only know the general 'family' it belongs to.

The new rules could include lessons on how to de-germ the satellite on long journeys such as to Mars and beyond.An analysis of dust collected from the artificial satellite found that Actinobacteria, a type of bacteria associated with human skin, made up a larger proportion of the microbial community in the ISS.

Now researchers have called for an urgent investigation to decide whether any of the bacteria could infect astronauts.

"The risk of acquiring infection from opportunistic bacterial and fungal pathogens might pose a threat to crewmembers’ health and needs to be studied in the future," a team of academics from top universities in America and Europe warned in the journal Microbiome.

Analysis showed the presence of Corynebacterium - the genus which contains lethal Corynebacterium diphtheriae.

Diptheria is thought to kill between 5 per cent and 10 per cent of the people it infects.

NASA scientists from it's Jet Propulsion Laboratory used the latest DNA sequencing technologies to rapidly and precisely identify the microorganisms present on the ISS.

They collected air filter samples and vacuum bag dust from the ISS and compared it to "clean rooms" back on Earth - sterile rooms with airlocks to reduce contamination.

But while clean rooms circulate fresh air, on board the station air is filtered and recirculated while it is inhabited continuously by only six people.

The study published in the journal Microbiome analysed the samples for microorganisms, and then stained their cells with a dye to determine whether they were living or dead.

Microbiologist Dr Venkateswaran, said: "By using both traditional and state-of-the-art molecular analysis techniques we can build a clearer picture of the International Space Station's microbial community, helping to spot bacterial agents that may damage equipment or threaten astronaut health, and identify areas in need of more stringent cleaning."


Absence of proof is not proof of absence.
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