Bacteria in the International Space Station are just trying to make it through in space, but that doesn't mean these microbes are mutating, scientists explain.
A study from Northwestern University published in the journal mSystems looked at how bacteria are evolving in space given the harsh living conditions there. Scientists found that these were not mutating into something as dangerous as antibiotic-resistant organisms.
Space Bacteria Adjusting To Environment
Although these space bacteria were found to have different genes than those found on Earth, experts say this doesn't make it harmful to humans. They went on to explain that these microbes were simply adjusting to the environment and the stressful conditions.
The findings debunk rumors that bacteria traveling in space along with astronauts are becoming more and more immune against antibiotics and address concerns regarding the effects of the stressful conditions on these organisms.
"People will be in little capsules where they cannot open windows, go outside or circulate the air for long periods of time. We're genuinely concerned about how this could affect microbes," lead author Erica Hartmann of Northwestern said.
Bacteria Brought To Space
This study sheds light on the safety of astronauts traveling for longer periods across space and is especially important for future missions to farther places in the solar system. Along with their human co-passengers, bacteria are usually brought on board either by the astronauts themselves or in their cargo.
Researchers used data from the National Center for Biotechnology Information to differentiate Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus cereus from those on Earth. The former bacteria are usually thriving on human skin and the latter microbe, found in soil.
That said, those that were shed off from the skin find themselves in a new environment, prompting them to learn to deal with the harsh environment. The study not only rendered useful in understanding space bacteria, it also underlined how dangerous it is for unhealthy humans to venture in space in exchange of money.