Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Even on the Space Station

Antibiotic resistant bacteria seem to go wherever humans do, as Discover's D-brief blog reports that researchers have found antibiotic-resistant strains of Enterobacter, an opportunistic human pathogen, on the International Space Station.

Researchers from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and elsewhere sequenced the whole genomes of five Enterobacter isolates collected from the space station and compared them to 1,291 publicly available Enterobacter genomes. The ISS Enterobacter genomes were most similar to clinical E. bugandensis isolates, as the researchers report in BMC Microbiology. E. bugandensis, Popular Mechanics adds, is named after a hospital in Tanzania where it caused an outbreak of life-threatening infections in newborns.

The researchers further found that the ISS isolates shared drug resistance patterns with Earth-bound strains, including the one from Tanzania, and estimated that the ISS isolates have a 79 percent probability of being a human pathogen.

"Understanding how microbial life grows in a closed environment like the ISS will help us better prepared for the health concerns that come with space travel," co-first author Nitin Singh from JPL tells Discover in an email. "ISS offers us a first-hand opportunity to study an often overlooked aspect of space travel: how a spacecraft's microbiome and life support system interact."