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 Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute

nachricht Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>