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Researchers Have Developed An Anti-Microbial Coating That Will Help Astronauts Fight Superbugs on ISS

"Immuno-suppression, bacterial virulence and infection risk increase with duration of spaceflight. We must continue to develop new approaches to combat bacterial infections if we are to attempt longer missions to Mars and beyond," Grohmann noted.

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A regular silver coating tested for comparison had only a slight anti-microbial effect, reducing the number of bacteria by 30 per cent against steel. VOA

Researchers have developed an anti-microbial coating that reduced the growth of bacteria on contamination-prone surfaces at the ISS, and could help protect astronauts beyond the Moon and Mars from the antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

Microgravity, cosmic radiation, psychological stress and unearthly conditions at the International Space Station (ISS) lead to weakened immune system and strengthening of bacteria that can put the crew at risk.

In the study, published in Frontiers in Microbiology journal, the team tested a new anti-microbial coating named AGXX, made of precious metals, on the toilet door. It proved to be highly effective.

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To make matters worse, the genes responsible for these new traits can be readily shared among different species of bacteria. Pixabay

After six months, no bacteria were recovered from AGXX-coated surfaces.

Even at 12-19 months, just 12 bacteria were recovered — a reduction of 80 per cent compared with bare steel. A regular silver coating tested for comparison had only a slight anti-microbial effect, reducing the number of bacteria by 30 per cent against steel.

“AGXX contains silver and ruthenium, conditioned by a vitamin derivative, and it kills all kinds of bacteria as well as certain fungi, yeasts and viruses,” said Professor Elisabeth Grohmann from the Beuth University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, Germany.

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Thus, the bacteria they carry become harder — developing thick protective coatings and resistance to antibiotics — more vigorous, multiplying and metabolising faster.
Pixabay

“The effects are similar to bleach, except the coating is self-regenerating and never gets used up,” Grohmann said.

Grohmann noted that spaceflight can turn harmless bacteria into potential pathogens as the stress hormones leave astronauts vulnerable to infection.

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Thus, the bacteria they carry become harder — developing thick protective coatings and resistance to antibiotics — more vigorous, multiplying and metabolising faster.

To make matters worse, the genes responsible for these new traits can be readily shared among different species of bacteria.

“Immuno-suppression, bacterial virulence and infection risk increase with duration of spaceflight. We must continue to develop new approaches to combat bacterial infections if we are to attempt longer missions to Mars and beyond,” Grohmann noted. (IANS)

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Astronauts Hustle through First of Five Spacewalks to Replace Old Batteries at International Space Station

These new lithium-ion batteries are so powerful that only one is needed for every two old ones, which are original to the orbiting lab

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Astronauts, Spacewalks, Batteries
In this image made from video provided by NASA, NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan work outside the International Space Station, Oct. 6 2019. VOA

Astronauts hustled through the first of five spacewalks to replace old batteries at the International Space Station on Sunday.

Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan removed three old batteries and installed two new ones delivered just a week ago, getting a jump on future work. These new lithium-ion batteries are so powerful that only one is needed for every two old ones, which are original to the orbiting lab.

“Awesome work today. We have made great progress,” Mission Control radioed. Koch replied: “It has been a wonderful day … we look forward to the rest of the series.”

Koch and Morgan will venture back out Friday for more battery work 250 miles (400 kilometers) up.

Astronauts, Spacewalks, Batteries
Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan removed three old batteries and installed two new ones delivered just a week ago, getting a jump on future work. Pixabay

The 400-pound (180-kilogram) batteries — half the size of a refrigerator — are part of the space station’s solar power network. Astronauts have been upgrading them since 2017 and are now more than halfway done. The old batteries are 10 years old; the new ones are expected to last until the end of the space station’s life, providing vital power on the night side of the Earth. These new batteries are so powerful that only one is needed for every two old ones.

These latest battery swaps are especially difficult given the extreme location on the station’s sprawling frame. It’s too far for the 58-foot (17-meter) robot arm to reach, forcing astronauts to lug the batteries back and forth themselves. That’s why so many spacewalks are needed this time to replace 12 old nickel-hydrogen batteries with six new lithium-ion versions.

Koch and Morgan took turns holding each battery as they made their way, inchworm style, along the structure. The batteries were so bulky that it blocked the spacewalkers’ views of one another, prompting constant updates. “I am right next to you,” Koch said at one point. “I have the battery,” Morgan replied. Then Koch had the battery, and so it went until the job was complete.

They ended up plugging in two new batteries, one more than anticipated, and removing an extra old one.

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The seven-hour spacewalk ended on another high note, at least for Koch. As she headed back inside, Mission Control gave her a National Football League update: “Good news, Eagles are ahead 14-0 in the second quarter.” She replied, “Go birds! … It might still be on when I get in.”

NASA plans to wrap up the five battery spacewalks this month, followed by a Russian spacewalk. Then five more U.S.-Italian spacewalks will be conducted in November and December to fix a key science instrument. NASA is calling it a “spacewalk bonanza.”

This unusual crush of spacewalks will feature the first all-female spacewalk — by Koch and Jessica Meir — later this month.

Koch is two-thirds of the way through a more than 300-day mission. It will be the longest single spaceflight by a woman. (VOA)