The bacteria that Collins will include are Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus. These bacteria are responsible for more hospital-acquired infections than any other, according to Collins. The Center for Disease Control places hospital-acquired infections such as those caused by these bacteria as the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.
Biofilms are complex, three-dimensional microbial communities. Most biofilms, including those found in the human body, are harmless. Some biofilms, however, have been shown to be associated with disease. Researchers like Collins are discovering that the bacteria within these colonies have very different properties, including increased resistance to antimicrobials, compared with bacteria not encased in a biofilm.
Collins and her team will send up 16 devices, called Group Activation Packs (GAPs) and each containing eight vials of bacteria, aboard the shuttle. The GAPs and other hardware used by the Collins and her team were developed by BioServe Space Technologies. While in orbit, astronauts will begin the experiment by manipulating the sealed GAPs and combining the bacteria with nutrients and a surface on which they can form biofilms. At the same time, Collins will perform the same actions with identical GAPs on Earth at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After the shuttle returns, her team will compare the resulting biofilms to see how the behavior of bacteria and development of biofilms in microgravity differs from the Earth-bound control group.
In addition, the research team will also test if a newly developed, antimicrobial surface developed by Dordick at Rensselaer can help slow the growth of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, on Earth and in microgravity. Actual MRSA, the bacteria responsible for antibiotic-resistant infections, will not be used for the safety of
|Contact: Gabrielle DeMarco|
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute