Space is gross. At least, the part of space where the humans live, at least. The International Space Station is a temporary home nearly 250 miles above Earth for three to 10 astronauts at any given time, and as a result, the place is crawling with germs. After nearly 15 years of continuous occupation, conditions on the space station have become a microbiologist’s dream – but they could spell bad news for future ISS residents.
The bacteria swarming around the ISS are the same microbes found on Earth. However, while the same germs would be harmless at home, they are thriving on the space station in a most disconcerting way. A new analysis of dust from the ISS showed large quantities of a bacteria called Actinobacteria that is associated with human skin, which could cause skin irritation or mild infections. That is to be expected in a place where humans live in closed quarters. However, the dust analysis also revealed two groups of pathogens that could potentially cause more serious illnesses.
Authors of the study, which was published in the journal Microbiome, didn’t elaborate the possible health risks this level of bacteria might pose for the ISS staff, but a future study may be launched to evaluate the threat. There is speculation, however, that these findings may inspire more stringent cleaning procedures on the space station, and perhaps a stronger vacuum cleaner.
Images via NASA and Wikipedia