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The Bugs of Space

While bacteria on the International Space Station are adapting, they are not becoming more dangerous to people, LiveScience reports.

Researchers from Northwestern University compared the genomes of Bacillus cereus and Staphylococcus aureus isolates that had been collected from the ISS as well as from Earth-bound sites. As they report in mSystems this week, the researchers found that while the bacterial isolates collected from space did differ a little from ones gathered from soil, buildings, and people on Earth, their changes mostly appeared to be in response to the stresses of space.

Scientists had been concerned that superbugs might have an advantage over more ordinary bacteria in space and dominate them that environment, LiveScience notes. But first author Ryan Blaustein, postdoc at Northwestern says in a statement that "it looks like bacteria are adapting to live — not evolving to cause disease. We didn't see anything special about antibiotic resistance or virulence in the space station's bacteria."

That, LiveScience adds, is good for astronauts contemplating long-haul space flights.