Feeds

Astronauts bring space-grown bugs home

They just Flu in

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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." ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
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.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.