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Space Station conditions are selective but do not alter microbial characteristics relevant to human health

The International Space Station (ISS) is a unique habitat for humans and microorganisms. Here, we report the results of the ISS experiment EXTREMOPHILES, including the analysis of microbial communities from several areas aboard at three time points. We assess microbial diversity, distribution, functional capacity and resistance profile using a combination of cultivation-independent analyses (amplicon and shot-gun sequencing) and cultivation-dependent analyses (physiological and genetic characterization of microbial isolates, antibiotic resistance tests, co-incubation experiments). We show that the ISS microbial communities are highly similar to those present in ground-based confined indoor environments and are subject to fluctuations, although a core microbiome persists over time and locations. The genomic and physiological features selected by ISS conditions do not appear to be directly relevant to human health, although adaptations towards biofilm formation and surface interactions were observed. Our results do not raise direct reason for concern with respect to crew health, but indicate a potential threat towards material integrity in moist areas.

Nature Communications volume 10, Article number: 3990 (2019)


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