NASA researchers, including an Indian-origin scientist, has found the surface inside the International Space Station (ISS) is littered with microbes. There are currently six astronauts on board the ISS. NASA scientists have discovered that microbes mainly came from humans and were similar to those found in gyms, public buildings and offices here on Earth.
Published in the journal Microbiome, the study was first to provide a comprehensive catalogue of the bacteria and fungi lurking on interior surfaces in closed space systems.
“The ISS is a hermetically sealed closed system, subjected to microgravity, radiation, elevated carbon dioxide and the recirculation of air through HEPA filters, and is considered an ‘extreme environment’,” said Kasthuri Venkateswaran, a senior research scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“The influence of the indoor microbiome on human health becomes more important for astronauts during flights due to altered immunity associated with space flight and the lack of sophisticated medical interventions that are available on Earth,” he said.
The authors found that while fungal communities were stable, microbial communities were similar across locations but changed over time.
The microbes on the ISS were mostly human-associated. The most prominent bacteria were Staphylococcus, Pantoea and Bacillus.
"Regardless, the detection of possible disease-causing organisms highlights the importance of further studies to examine how these ISS microbes function in space," said Dr Checinska Sielaff, the study's first author.
The station, built in 1998 and orbiting around 250 miles above the Earth, has been visited by more than 222 astronauts and up to six resupply missions a year up until August 2017.