For astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS), even in orbit 408.7 km (408.7 km) above the surface of the planet, the Earth's concerns about antibiotic-resistant superbugs do not exclude According to a new study published in the journal BMC Microbiology, five bacterial strains of this type have been identified on the ISS during routine environmental tests conducted by NASA.
To date, no reports have shown that astronauts got sick after sharing space with this bacteria, but researchers say they could still be affected. In the event that medical problems result from such superbugs, treating astronauts would be a difficult task.
"These species pose significant health problems for future missions," says the study.
Antibiotics are supposed to be used to treat diseases. But some infectious bacterial strains have evolved to become more and more difficult to kill, exposing essential modern medicines, including penicillin and tetracyclines, to a risk of ineffectiveness. Health experts often say that there is a double reason why bacteria evolve to become resistant. The first is that doctors often prescribe antibiotics to their patients. The second, more urgent, problem is that, over the years, farmers have abused antibiotics to grow their animals faster and prevent them from getting sick.
The World Health Organization has for several years warned the medical and agricultural sectors against the rise of these so-called superbugs. In 2017, he published a report asking governments around the world to put in place new policies to combat the future evolution of resistant bacteria.
In the ISS study, researchers tested swabs from the station environment and found that the superbugs strains on the space station were similar to the resistant strains on Earth. According to genetic tests, ISS strains were likely to cause illness in 79% of cases.
Scientists have notably discovered what is called Enterobacter bacteria, which are commonly found in our digestive systems. Enterobacter does not cause illness, but if a person has a weaker immune system, the bacteria can cause illness and infection, including sepsis.
In a statement, NASA researchers said there was still much to learn about the possible response of the bacteria to space conditions.
"New in vivo studies are needed to determine the impact that conditions on the ISS, such as microgravity, other space and spacecraft-related factors, could have. on pathogenicity and virulence, "said Kasthuri Venkateswaran, senior researcher statement.