Bacteria on the International Space Station Are Not a Threat

Back in 2009, NASA installed a water dispenser up at the space station. Little did the astronauts know that along with the dispenser, they also took bacteria there. Bacteria that years later proved not just to have survived but also to enjoy the conditions there.

A new study says that the bacteria suffered no changes up there. It maintained the same behavior as here on Earth, so the specialists don’t consider it a significant threat.

Despite the regulate cleansing of the dispenser with extra-strength cleaning solution, the bacteria survived and contaminated not just the dispenser but also the water. Knowing now that we are talking about Burkholderia, there is no surprise that it thrived despite the cleaning solution.

BCC infection can lead to a rapid decline in lung function and result in death. BCC organisms are naturally resistant to many common antibiotics.

Treatment typically includes multiple antibiotics and may consist of ceftazidime, doxycycline, piperacillin, meropenem, chloramphenicol, and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole(co-trimoxazole). So, the extra-strength cleaning solution wasn’t strong enough for them.

The International Space Station Houses Bacteria, But They Are Not A Threat

Burkholderia is a genus of Proteobacteria whose pathogenic members include the Burkholderia cepacia complex, which attacks humans and Burkholderia mallei, responsible for glanders, a disease that occurs mostly in horses and related animals.

B. cepacia is an opportunistic human pathogen that most often causes pneumonia in immunocompromised individuals with underlying lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis or chronic granulomatous disease. Patients with sickle-cell hemoglobinopathies are also at risk.

There are currently 20 validly named species that can be distinguished from Burkholderia genera. Two of them were identified in the water from the space station: Burkholderia cepacia and Burkholderia contaminants. They are subspecies of B. cepacia complex.

Burkholderia cepacia is an important pathogen of pulmonary infections in people with cystic fibrosis. In the 1980s, outbreaks of B. cepacia in individuals with cystic fibrosis were associated with a 35% death rate. B. cepacia has a large genome, containing twice the amount of genetic material as E. coli.

Burkholderia contaminants are gram-negative, bacterium that belongs to the Burkholderia cepacia complex, which was isolated from cystic fibrosis patients in Argentina.

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