Feeds

Astronauts bring space-grown bugs home

They just Flu in

A new approach to endpoint data protection

The crew of the space shuttle Endeavour has arrived back on Earth safe and sound, but not alone. The astronauts have brought a raging case of strep with them.

Well, not so much a case, as sealed containers of space grown Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. The cargo is being shipped to the University of Texas' microbiology and immunology department for analysis.

Department chairman David Niesel was on the runway when the shuttle touched down, ready to take possession of the bacteria.

Niesel and his colleagues want to try to work out how the bacteria change in microgravity, and determine whether or not the bacteria could pose a threat to a crew on a long space flight.

Streptococcus pneumoniae is known as an opportunistic bacterium: that is to say that most of the time it is harmless, but will readily exploit a host's weakness and trigger a full-blown disease.

"Strep pneumoniae is a very potent pathogen in people who are immunosuppressed - it's the number-one cause of community-acquired pneumonia, and a leading mediator of bacteremia [bacterial blood infections] and meningitis," Niesel said.

"There's a decline in people's immune function the longer they're in the space environment, and it's been shown that other bacteria also alter their properties in microgravity - they grow faster, they tend to be more virulent and resistant to microbial treatment."

The crew carried one of two sets of bacterial cultures with them to the international space station. Another sample was kept on Earth. Both sets of bacteria were exposed to exactly the same conditions, except for the microgravity, Niesel said, with the timings of changes to the bacteria's environments synchronised to the minute.

"Now we have two snapshots of the bacteria frozen in time, grown with the same parameters except the microgravity part, and we should be able to see the differences that result when the bacteria see this unique space environment." ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
Boffins spot weirder quantum capers as neutrons take the high road, spin takes the low
Cheshire cat effect see neutrons and their properties walk different paths
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?