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Thread: Mutant bacteria and the Space race

  1. #1
    Administrator Ross's Avatar
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    Mutant bacteria and the Space race


    Accelerated breeding of mutant bacteria may choke space race.

    FORGET Predators and Aliens. Even Tribbles are no trouble. The biggest challenge to our future spacefarers could be mutant, fast-breeding bacteria.

    To groundbreaking sci-fi author H.G. Wells, humble bacteria were his heroes. They defeated an invasion from Mars.
    Did he get it wrong?

    They may in reality prevent us from establishing a bridgehead on the Red Planet.

    Researchers from the University of Houston have found some bacteria mutates in low or no gravity.
    Not into giant amorphous, killer blobs. Yet.

    But into a rapidly replicating film that threatens to gum up the machinery and short the circuits of deep space ships and stations.

    It’s a problem already being encountered aboard the International Space Station. A thick, sticky layer of bacteria is coating their equipment.

    And space agencies are beginning to worry about the impact on astronaut health.

    “In combination with this increased human risk, bacteria exposed to the same environments may become more virulent and/or antibiotic resistant as a result of exposure to the low shear environment induced,” the researchers write.
    Translation: They’re worried about killer mutant bacteria taking over the ISS.

    The researchers, who published their results in the science journal NPJ Microgravity, don’t know why the bacteria respond in this way.

    But they’ve been carefully watching Escherichia coli living in space for more than 1000 generations (not really all that long in human terms).

    In that time, they told New Scientist, the bacteria registered at least mutations.
    At least, that’s how many changes the researchers found in their DNA.

    And their growth rate was seen to roughly triple over their ground-based brethren.
    Other studies have demonstrated similar accelerated bacterial growth in space. But nowhere near the tripling in the new results.

    Exactly which mutation triggered the supercharged expansion of the bacterial colonies is not known.
    But, once returned to Earth, the mutant bacteria remained hyper productive.

    So the changes to their DNA could prove permanent. And that could become a problem if some hitchhike back attached to unaware returning astronauts.

    “We are, in fact, seeing true genomic changes — permanent changes,” University of Houston researcher George Fox told New Scientist.

    “Next we need to figure out exactly what those changes are doing.”

    So has the returned E.coli escaped into the sewers, biding its time to take over the world?


    Researchers reassure us that resistance to antibiotics was not one of the recorded mutations.

    ***Fred Coleman, Founding Partner, Beloved Friend***
    who passed away 11/10/2016
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Adam Bomm's Avatar
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    Mar 2013
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    Re: Mutant bacteria and the Space race

    whooh, I maintained a medical research database for the Astronaut corps and the NASA community. Some of it was proprietary and some of it was open to the public. I never saw this guy but it was 3-4 years ago and I don't think the ISS bacteria problem was evident yet. This one is going to go into the Red column. Unknown but needs attention.

    That's some crazy stuff. Science fiction meet Science.

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