Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Detecting bacteria in space: The good, the bad and the unknown

14.11.2002


Bacteria in space, beware. New technology to monitor and identify bacteria is in the works.



Dr. George E. Fox and Dr. Richard Willson, researchers on the National Space Biomedical Research Institute’s immunology and infection team, have developed a new technology to characterize unknown bacteria. Its immediate application will be for identifying bacteria in space, but it will eventually aid in diagnosing medical conditions and detecting biological hazards on Earth.

“Understanding the bacterial environment is important for astronauts’ health,” said Fox, professor of biology and biochemistry at University of Houston. “Astronauts spend months in the same quarters, breathe recycled air and potentially drink recycled water; conditions that create a bacterial breeding ground. Additionally, the space environment might also have some unexpected health considerations.”


Studies have shown that space conditions suppress the human immune system, making the body more susceptible to infection. Further, weightlessness and higher levels of radiation may increase the mutation rate in bacteria. This could result in making some organisms more resistant to antibiotics or perhaps causing others that are normally harmless to become infectious.

“Because of space’s unidentified effects on bacteria and the immune system, we don’t know which organisms will cause problems,” Fox said. “However, we have developed a technique to determine an organism’s approximate identity.”

Their approach is based off the bacterial tree of life, which is arranged according to similarities in organisms’ DNA sequences. Organisms whose DNA sequences are closely matched are more closely related than organisms whose DNA sequences are less similar. Fox and Willson have developed a method to identify the DNA sequences that are unique to small groups of bacteria.

“Current detection systems mandate that you test for an exact organism. If a problem organism is similar but not identical to the organism you are testing for, the test will show up negative,” Fox said. “However, with our system, astronauts would be able to pinpoint an organism’s family and significantly narrow down the possibilities of its identity.”

Once Fox and Willson’s device identifies the problem organism, scientists can predict the bacteria’s source, like a faulty air filter or a water purifier, and fix the defective instrument for future missions.

Any kind of bacterial buildup should be avoided in the spacecraft.

“We are not specifically looking for deadly mutated bacteria,” Fox said. “We are more concerned about preventing everyday infections because, if you get sick in space, you don’t have a hospital around the corner for treatment. Our goal is to avoid infections with routine monitoring to keep bacteria levels low in the first place.”

The routine monitoring of bacterial levels is the second component of Fox and Willson’s research. Because of limited laboratory space and chemical availability in spacecrafts, they are designing an easy-to-use monitoring method for bacteria levels. Astronauts would filter the air or water, or swab a surface, to obtain the bacterial sample, and then they would test the sample for high levels of certain organisms that would indicate contamination.

“The tool will provide an early warning that the air or water purification system might not be working properly, allowing for needed repairs,” said Fox. “The routine monitoring system and the bacterial identification device will help astronauts stay healthy during their time in space.”


The NSBRI, funded by NASA, is a consortium of institutions studying the health risks related to long-duration space flight. The Institute’s 95 research and education projects take place at 75 institutions in 22 states involving 269 investigators.


Kathy Major | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nsbri.org/NewsPublicOut/Release.epl?r=39
http://www.nsbri.org/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Could this protein protect people against coronary artery disease?
17.11.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care

nachricht Microbial resident enables beetles to feed on a leafy diet
17.11.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>