sent into our space responded to the altered
gravity by becoming more virulent, with changed
expression of 167 different genes, according
to a study published in the Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences.
"These bugs can sense where they are by
changes in their environment," said Cheryl
Nickerson, from the Center for Infectious Diseases
and Vaccinology at Arizona State University
(ASU). "The minute they sense a different
environment, they change their genetic machinery
so they can survive.“
Researchers placed strains of Salmonella
typhimurium, a common food-poisoning
agent, into two separate containment canisters.
One of the canisters was sent into outer space
for 12 days,while the other remained in the
Orbital Environmental Simulator at Kennedy Space
Center. The environmental simulator remained
in constant communication with the space shuttle,
immediately replicating in real-time whatever
temperature and humidity conditions were being
experienced in the vessel. This allowed the
two groups of bacteria to be exposed to identical
conditions, except for the fact that one group
were under microgravity conditions in outer
The findings may be significant not only for
those who travel in space, but also in terms
of what microbes astronauts are bringing back.
"Wherever humans go, microbes go; you
can't sterilize humans," Nickerson says.
"Wherever we go, under the oceans or orbiting
the Earth, the microbes go with us, and it's
important that we understand how they're going
Nickerson also says that since S. typhimurium
exists in a natural microgravity in the human
gut, understanding how environmental conditions
regulate the organism's virulence may help lead
to better treatments.
In addition to researchers from ASU, scientists
also participated in the study from the Johnson
and Kennedy Space Centers, Kimmel Cancer Center,
NASA Ames Research Center, Oklahoma City University,
Tulane University, University of Arizona, University
of Chicago, University of Colorado at Boulder
and Denver, Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health
Care System, and the Max Planck Institute for
Infection Biology in Berlin.
CENTRE Newsletter Vol.6, No 2 Jue