Germs Love The International Space Station

Microorganisms thrive in the low-stress environment of microgravity.
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Germs Love The International Space Station

Microgravity can wreak havoc on the human body, but it lets microbes thrive. Space-based research studies just how zero gravity affects our tiniest microorganisms.

Bacteria grow more rapidly in the low-stress environment of space than on Earth. That poses a threat to astronauts who already suffer from a weakened immune system in microgravity.

Bacteria also mutate more rapidly in space, becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics. The Nanobiosym Genes experiment studies two strains of bacteria on the ISS and compares how they mutate in space to how the same organisms mutate on Earth.

The Microbial Tracking-1 investigation is monitoring the types of microbes on the ISS. The study will help scientists determine which microbes threaten crew health and why some microbes are more virulent in space.

And bacteria aren't the only things that flourish in space. Previous research found stem cells grow very well in microgravity. Astronauts are studying their progress with the Microgravity Expanded Stem Cells experiment, which lets them grow human stem cells on the ISS for use in clinical trials and medical therapies.