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Spaceflight shown to alter ability of bacteria to cause disease
Date:9/24/2007

Space flight has been shown to have a profound impact on human physiology as the body adapts to zero gravity environments. Now, a new study led by researchers from the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University has shown that the tiniest passengers flown in spacemicrobescan be equally affected by space flight, making them more infectious pathogens.

Space flight alters cellular and physiological responses in astronauts including the immune response, said Nickerson, who led a project aboard NASAs space shuttle mission STS-115 (September 2006) involving a large, international collaboration between NASA, ASU and 12 other research institutions. However, relatively little was known about microbial changes to infectious disease risk in response to space flight.

Cheryl Nickerson and lead author James Wilson, both professors in ASUs School of Life Sciences, have performed the first study of its kind to investigate the effect of space flight on the genetic responses and disease-causing potential, or virulence, of Salmonella typhimurium, the main bacterial culprit of food poisoning. Their results, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (www.pnas.org.cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.0707), reveal a key role for a master regulator, called Hfq, in triggering the genetic changes that show an increase in the virulence of Salmonella as a result of spaceflight. The results of these studies hold potential to greatly advance infectious disease research in space and here on Earth, and may lead to the development of new therapeutics to treat and prevent infectious disease.

To study the effects of space flight, Nickerson and colleagues sent specially contained tubes of Salmonella in an experimental payload aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis. The tubes of bacteria were placed in triple containment for safety and posed no threat to the health and safety of the crew during or
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Contact: Joe Caspermeyer
joseph.caspermeyer@asu.edu
480-727-0369
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert

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