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Potentially dangerous bacteria found on ISS

Researchers have found five strains of bacteria on ISS that, while not dangerous now, has the potential to mutate into forms that could be a threat.

When Bezdan and colleagues ran the numbers on the space station microbes, however, they found that they were similar to only three – and rare ones, at that. They report similarities with strains found to date only once – one recovered from neonatal blood in a Tanzanian patient, another from a neonatal urine sample in the US, and the third from a 72-year-old woman with multiple health problems. In total, the researchers report, the eight strains thus “formed a unique ecotype”.

The ISS strains all contained genes associated with drug-resistance. They did not, however, contain combinations associated with high infection rates. Nevertheless, the results are enough for the researchers to sound a warning.

There are a lot of uncertainties here, including a lack of understanding of the effect of weighlessness on these bacteria. Nonetheless, this research highlights an important problem for future interplanetary spacecraft that has generally been ignored: Their small and limited ecology is very vulnerable to this kind of threat.


Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors. The ebook can be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner. Note that the price for the ebook, $3.99, goes up to $5.99 on September 1, 2022.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Willi

    “a” missing before last word of first sentence?

  • Phill O

    By putting humans there, an incredible number of microbes have been introduced.

  • Willi: I have no idea what you are talking about. :)

    Typo fixed.

  • Cotour

    “For eons, nature has used our sun’s ultraviolet energy as a way to cleanse the earth. UV light has many practical uses, it seems as if many of its medical applications have been ignored, neglected or purposely pushed aside. With the new antibiotic resistant diseases on the rise could humanity’s slow acceptance be the beginning of our demise. Because of this frightening rise of resistant organisms, plus the side effects of chemical pharmacological we need to utilize modalities that encourage the body’s natural healing response.”

    I have to assume that NASA has some form of equipment on the space station and protocol that accomplishes remedying this to some great degree? If not why not? This potential has to be one of the first things to be thought about by scientists when thinking of humans from all over the earth being confined in an enclosed space over the span of years and that environment essentially becoming a gigantic petri dish.

    Which leads to the question: Is this really a new news story?

  • wayne

    -haven’t tracked back on anything as of yet.
    Something doesn’t feel quite correct in the narrative. It could just be sloppy reporting, but then again–everyone has an Agenda.
    I only play a microbiologist on the interweb; everything (bacteria) on the ISS was carried up to it via cargo, animals, or humans.
    “Similar” to other strains is no surprise. “Genes related to drug resistance,” depends heavily on how you define genes-related-to, and drug-resistance.

    –I have a UV-C disinfecting unit in my Furnace (Glows a nice white/blue color, although you should resist the urge to stare at its’ hypnotic glow.)
    Kills bacteria/mold/fungi at the molecular level, and the effective is cumulative. (Breaks DNA strands)
    I’d be surprised if the ISS didn’t have at a minimum the HEPA filters (cleans down to 4-5 microns) and various UV-C type units. (I just don’t know one way or the other.)

    One of many suppliers….

  • wayne

    Andromeda Strain (1971) –
    “Wildfire intro”

  • Cotour

    This is more what I am talking about besides any ultraviolet air filtration treatment.

    These units are wheeled into an operating room or a patients room and run for a period of time and the problem is mitigated. The main point is the “antibiotic resistant” aspect of the microbes. And I suppose that bacteria of all kinds would grow in places that were not regularly accessible to a light or air filtration system, but still there has to be some protocol in operation now because the potential has had to have been forecast I would think.

  • wayne


    (way tangentially– I’m reminded of the Star Trek episode where Spock is infected by an organism and they have to utilize hi-intensity light of a specific wavelength to kill the organism, but not kill the people on the planet.)

    Tangentially– the top layer of Mars is sterile precisely because the surface is bathed in UV-C. (Which does not preclude organisms growing under “good” cover or below the effective surface penetration of UV-C.)Our atmosphere filters out uv-c or we would be Mars. (They don’t talk about that a whole lot.)

    With UV-C air filtration in a spacecraft/space station the effects are cumulative and the light is enclosed so all areas are accessible to people while it’s running. (You want to keep anything from getting into the air-system and spewed all over the craft.)
    The light breaks DNA strands of pathogens and works unlike ‘regular’ antibiotics which interfere with pathogen reproduction from the inside out, as it were.

    The Unit you reference– that type would be good to run in areas not utilized by people– say, treat areas not used wen they are sleeping. With sufficient intensity of the light, every nook & cranny is reached on a surface level, even shaded areas.

    Referencing your linked picture– a Unit in operation.
    Clorox Healthcare®
    Optimum-UV Enlight®

    (My daughter is in drug discovery/pharmacology and they have been (very actively) [$$$] screening for novel molecules with antibiotic effects. I am not however well versed in DNA of drug resistant organisms.) They can literally kill “everything,” but the Host has to be able to survive the treatment. Therein lies the engineering problem they face.)

    Totally fanciful– It would be an interesting experiment to dump a spacecraft full of earth bacteria, onto another planet and….just see what happens. (But I’m sure someone would complain and file a suit in the 9th Circuit and extend the EPA authority into Space.) (It’s coming….)

    I’m also reminded of Skylab— it would have been interesting to have boosted the orbit and abandon it, and then come back later to see what sort of mold/fungi/bacteria multiplied,or not.

    (just babbling tonight!)

  • wayne

    UV effects on bacteria time-lapse

    “Time-lapse footage of bacteria-covered petri plates growing after being exposed to UV light.”

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