By sheer strength of numbers, bacteria are by far the most successful life form on Earth. As we've learned over the past several decades of human spaceflight, they don't do too badly in microgravity either. For evidence, just look back on the astronauts and cosmonauts who were stricken with infections during their flights. At home, we have long-established and usually effective antibiotic treatments against most harmful bacteria. But previous studies have shown that in space, bacteria can survive and thrive in what would be fatal drug concentrations for them back on Earth. How is that possible?
That's a question of vital concern not just today, with International Space Station crews living together in confined spaces for months at a time, but for the future astronauts who will embark on long-duration missions to Mars and beyond. For those journeys, a quick emergency return to Earth won't be possible. Searching for the answer also helps researchers to understand the inner workings of bacteria as they seek to develop improved treatments for patients on the ground and in space.
The Antibiotic Effectiveness in Space (AES-1) investigation, scheduled to launch in January aboard the first contracted Orbital resupply flight to the space station, is a systematic attempt to probe the reasons for antibiotic resistance in space. "Is the mechanism that's allowing this to occur some form of adaptation or drug resistance acquisition within the cell, or is it more of an indirect function of the biophysical environment, the changes due to microgravity and mass transport?" asked AES-1 principal investigator David Klaus, Ph.D., of BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
The AES-1 investigation consists of 32 separate combinations of E. coli bacteria and various concentrations of a common antibiotic drug, either Gentamicin and Colistin. That experimental set is duplicated four times to provide a total of 128 separate
|Contact: Laura Niles|
NASA/Johnson Space Center