Among the many major threats that astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) face daily, an unwelcome but inevitable danger comes from a tiny organism: microbes.
Countless numbers of these microorganisms are carried by astronauts and cargo flights launched into space International Space Station, can produce hibernating burrows in the form of complex arrays of cells. These cells are called biofilms, and they are found on space station surfaces, space suits, and water systems, to name just a few of the areas they invade.
While many types of microbes are beneficial, harmful types are also capable Evading the human body’s defense system and tissue damage. In addition, they do this while hibernating, thanks to their protection through the biofilms they secrete. On the space station, biofilms pose a risk not only to the health of astronauts but also to the equipment they adhere to — so much so that hoses and pumps have been sent back to the space station. Land To be unblocked.
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“We can’t sterilize everything we send to him space“And I wouldn’t want to, but we’re doing a lot to limit potential pathogens from getting to the station,” said Sarah Wallace, a microbiologist at the University of California. NASA’s Johnson Space Center Who researches microbes in space, said in a statement Earlier this year.
An International Space Station experiment looking at a specific surface treatment offers some hope.
In 2019, astronauts treated the International Space Station’s surface materials with a silicone-based lubricant and exposed them to a bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa. These bacteria are usually found in soil and water on Earth, and cause blood and lung infections He evades relentlessly Effects of antibiotics. The samples were then incubated on board the station for three days. Further tests showed that the lubricant prevented microbes from collecting on the surface.
Previous research had already shown that the method worked on Earth, and “we found that these surfaces are very good at preventing biofilm formation on the space station as well,” said Kripa Varanasi, a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT and one of the authors of the paper. The new study said in A statement.
Such solutions will be especially useful during long-duration space missions the moon Mars and Mars “when receiving spare parts from Earth or returning the crew to Earth immediately is not possible,” the researchers say.
Back on Earth, scientists believe these findings could also help keep medical devices as clean as possible, as well as reduce wear and tear. Corrosion caused by microbes Equipment used to produce oil and gas, ultimately mitigating the risk of serious oil spills.
The research is described in A paper Published August 16 in npj Microgravity