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NASA is Concerned Over The Strains of Toilet Microbes on ISS

Using computer analyses, they predicted a 79 per cent probability that they may potentially cause disease

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Nasa's Opportunity rover might have 'died' on Mars. Flickr

NASA is concerned over the strains of the bacterium Enterobacter, identified on the toilets of the International Space Station’s (ISS), which can raise potential health implications for future missions, say Indian-origin scientists at the US space agency.

Five strains of ‘Enterobacter’ bacterium isolated from the space toilet and the exercise platform on the ISS in March 2015 were investigated in a study led by a team from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and California Institute of Technology (Caltech), US.

Genome sequencing of the samples revealed that all five strains belonged to a single species, Enterobacter bugandensis (E.bugandensis).

While these were not pathogenic to humans, E.bugandensis was linked to disease in neonates and a compromised patient, who were admitted to three different hospitals (in east Africa, Washington state and Colorado), the researchers said.

“Given the multi-drug resistance results for these ISS E.bugandensis genomes and the increased chance of pathogenicity we have identified, these species potentially pose important health considerations for future missions,” said lead author Nitin Singh from NASA-JPL Caltech.

“However, it is important to understand that the strains found on the ISS were not virulent, which means they are not an active threat to human health, but something to be monitored,” he added.

NASA, tissue
Genome sequencing of the samples revealed that all five strains belonged to a single species, Enterobacter bugandensis (E.bugandensis). Flcikr

For the study, published in the journal BMC Microbiology, the team compared the ISS strains to all publicly available genomes of 1,291 Enterobacter strains collected on Earth.

They found that the ISS isolates had similar antimicrobial resistance patterns to the three clinical strains found on Earth and that they included 112 genes involved in virulence, disease and defence.

Using computer analyses, they predicted a 79 per cent probability that they may potentially cause disease.

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“Whether or not an opportunistic pathogen like E.bugandensis causes disease and how much of a threat it is, depends on a variety of factors, including environmental ones,” said Kasthuri Venkateswaran, Senior Research Scientist at the JPL.

“Further in vivo studies are needed to discern the impact that conditions on the ISS, such as microgravity, other space, and spacecraft-related factors, may have on pathogenicity and virulence,” he noted. (IANS)

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Mars Rover’s Mission Now Over, Confirms NASA

Opportunity landed on Mars on January 24, 2004. First among the mission’s scientific goals was to search for and characterise a wide range of rocks and soils for clues to past water activity on Mars

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Mars Rover 2020. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

NASA has announced the end of its Opportunity rover’s mission, 15 years after its arrival on Mars.

The announcement was made on Wednesday at a press conference at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, following NASA’s last attempt to communicate with the rover on Tuesday night which got no response, Xinhua reported.

The rover last communicated with Earth on June 10, 2018, as a planet-wide dust storm blanketed the solar-powered rover’s location on Mars. It has not been heard from for eight months since then.

Opportunity likely experienced a low-power fault, a mission clock fault and an up-loss timer fault, according to the mission team.

Team members have tried to rouse the rover ever since, and radiated more than a thousand commands to restore contact. However, no signal was heard from again.

“Saying goodbye is hard, but it comes the time,” said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity.

“It is because of trailblazing missions such as Opportunity that there will come a day when our brave astronauts walk on the surface of Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

“When that day arrives, some portion of that first footprint will be owned by the men and women of Opportunity, and a little rover that defied the odds and did so much in the name of exploration,” he said.

Also Read- Know How NASA’s Opportunity Mars Rover Enriched Space Science

The golf-cart-sized rover far exceeded its planned 90-day mission lifetimes. It has worked for nearly 15 years and travelled over 45 km by the time it reached its most appropriate final resting spot on Mars — Perseverance Valley.

Opportunity landed on Mars on January 24, 2004. First among the mission’s scientific goals was to search for and characterise a wide range of rocks and soils for clues to past water activity on Mars. (IANS)