NASA To Test Antibiotic Resistance Of E. Coli Bacteria In Space

Posted: Nov 26 2017, 2:08pm CST | by , Updated: Nov 26 2017, 2:12pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
NASA to Test Antibiotic Resistance of E. coli Bacteria in Space
Credit: NASA

The mission will investigate microgravity effects on antibiotic resistance of E. coli and its genetic basis

NASA has designed an experiment to see antibiotic effectiveness on E.coli bacteria under microgravity conditions of space. The experiment will be conducted inside a shoebox size spacecraft called CubeSat. The spacecraft contains a miniature biology lab where samples of E.coli will be treated with different concentrations of antibiotics and their responses will be observed by the researchers.

Space is an extremely hostile place, but bacteria are found to thrive in those conditions. The resilience of bacteria in space has been observed before and it appears that antibiotics are less effective in space. This bacterial resistance may pose a danger to astronauts working in microgravity conditions of space, where the immune response is weakened.

In the latest effort, researchers will investigate the genetic basis for how effectively antibiotics can combat E. coli bacteria in the low gravity. Scientists believe that the results of this experiment could help find effective countermeasures to protect astronauts’ health during long term missions in space.

“If we find resistance is higher in microgravity, we can do something, because we all know the gene responsible for it, and be able to design countermeasures,” said A. C. Matin, who will lead the experiment. “If we are serious about the exploration of space, we need to know how human vital systems are influenced by microgravity.”

Like other bacteria, E. coli may experience stress in microgravity. This stress triggers defense systems in the bacteria, making them resilient against antibiotics. Bacteria on Earth also develop a similar resistance to antibiotic treatments. The findings may have implications for more effective treatments against bacterial infections both on Earth and space. E. coli, in this case, is responsible for urinary tract infection and astronauts can suffer it in space alongside other types of infections.

“Beyond low-Earth orbit, the compounding human health effects of microgravity and space radiation will require more knowledge about how biology reacts to the space environment,” said Stevan Spremo, project manager for the mission at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. "Lessons learned in this experiment will serve as a stepping stone for more advanced biological CubeSat missions, answering critical questions.”

The experiment will last for 150 hours and the results will be sent back to Earth via radio.

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