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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.

bacteria
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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Spacecraft Test Runs into Serious Problems, Smoke All Over SpaceX in Florida

"Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting (issues) like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test"

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Federal oversight authorities warned NASA last year that more delays could leave US astronauts stranded if the new capsules were not ready to fly in 2019. Pixabay

Thick plumes of smoke rose over a SpaceX facility in Florida during a test fire of a Crew Dragon spacecraft and the issue was serious, it could derail plans to fly astronauts aboard the capsule later this year, the media reported.

SpaceX, which was founded by billionaire businessman Elon Musk in 2002, said the craft was undergoing a “series of engine tests” at a facility in Cape Canaveral on Saturday, and something went wrong during the final stretch, CNN reported.

SpaceX will work with NASA to determine what caused the issue. No injuries were reported.

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The US has not had the technology to fly humans to orbit since the space shuttle programme ended in 2011. Meanwhile, NASA has paid Russia about $80 million per seat to send astronauts to the International Space Station aboard Soyuz capsules. Pixabay

“Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting (issues) like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test,” SpaceX said in a statement.

Crew Dragon is already overdue and more delays could make things tricky for NASA.

It was scheduled to conduct a key test of its emergency abort system in June. And its first crewed mission, which will carry astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, was slated for July, though NASA recently said that timeline was under review.

space craft
Federal oversight authorities warned NASA last year that more delays could leave US astronauts stranded if the new capsules were not ready to fly in 2019. Pixabay

The US has not had the technology to fly humans to orbit since the space shuttle programme ended in 2011. Meanwhile, NASA has paid Russia about $80 million per seat to send astronauts to the International Space Station aboard Soyuz capsules.

NASA has also decided to ask the private sector to design and build a new generation of spacecrafts.

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SpaceX and Boeing, which is building a vehicle called Starliner, were awarded contracts worth up to $2.6 billion and $4.2 billion, respectively, in 2014. Both capsules were supposed to start flying in 2017, but they have been hampered with delays.

Federal oversight authorities warned NASA last year that more delays could leave US astronauts stranded if the new capsules were not ready to fly in 2019. (IANS)