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International space station plays host to innovative infectious disease research
Date:2/19/2013

ht alterations in bacterial behavior made use of microarray technology, which allows analysis of gene expression for the entire 4.8 million base pairs found in Salmonella's circular chromosome. Data revealed that 167 distinct genes and 73 proteins had been altered during growth under microgravity conditions, including (but not limited to) virulence-associated genes. Of the 167 genes undergoing up- or down-regulation in response to spaceflight, one third were under the control of the Hfq master regulator protein.

These microgravity studies open a new window into the infectious disease mechanisms of Salmonella, an aggressive pathogen responsible for infecting an estimated 94 million people globally and causing 155,000 deaths annually. In the U.S. alone, more than 40,000 cases of Salmonellosis are reported annually, resulting in at least 500 deaths, and health care costs in excess of $50 million. However, only a small percentage of infections with Salmonella are reported, and the estimated two to four million cases of Salmonella-induced gastroenteritis which occur in the United States each year constitute a significant economic loss of productive work time, reported to exceed $2 billion annually.

While Salmonella has been a pathogen of choice for a broad range of spaceflight investigations, Nickerson stresses that her findings have spaceflight and Earth-based implications. Her confidence is based on her team's work showing that microgravity culture also uniquely alters gene expression and pathogenesis-related responses in other microorganisms.

Nickerson emphasizes that the ISS provides an unprecedented opportunity to study the infection process under microgravity conditions, enabling advances in our understanding of microbial gene expression and accompanying host responses during infection in fine-grained detail. This novel approach holds the potential to identify new classes of genes and proteins associate
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Contact: Joseph Caspermeyer
Joseph.Caspermeyer@asu.edu
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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