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The Effect of Microgravity on the Smallest Space Travelers: Bacterial Physiology and Virulence on Earth and in MicrogravitySince the first human flights outside of Earth's gravity, crew health and well-being have been major concerns. Exposure to microgravity during spaceflight is known to affect the human immune response, possibly making the crew members more vulnerable to infectious disease. In addition, biological experiments previously flown in space have shown that bacteria grow faster in microgravity than they do on Earth. The ability of certain antibiotics to control bacterial infections may also differ greatly in microgravity. It is therefore critical to understand how spaceflight and microgravity affect bacterial virulence, which is their ability to cause disease. By utilizing spaceflight hardware provided by the European Space Agency (ESA), Dr. Barry Pyle and his team at Montana State University, Bozeman, will be performing an experiment to study the effects of microgravity on the virulence of a common soil and water bacterium, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Importantly, these bacteria have been detected in the water supplies of previous Space Shuttle flights. The experiment will examine the effects of microgravity exposure on bacterial growth and on the bacterium's ability to form a toxin called Exotoxin A. Another goal is to evaluate the effects of microgravity on the physiology of the bacteria by analyzing their ability to respire (produce energy), by studying the condition of the plasma membrane surrounding the cell, and by determining if specific enzymes remain active. Proteins produced by the bacteria will also be assayed to see if the normal functions of the bacteria are affected. In the context of human life support in spaceflight, the results of this experiment will offer guidance in providing the highest possible water quality for the Shuttle in order to limit the risk of infection to human occupants and to minimize water system and spacecraft deterioration.
Document ID
Document Type
Pyle, Barry (Montana State Univ. Bozeman, MT United States)
Vasques, Marilyn (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA United States)
Aquilina, Rudy
Date Acquired
August 21, 2013
Publication Date
December 16, 2002
Publication Information
Publication: STS 107 Shuttle Press Kit: Providing 24/7 Space Science Research
Subject Category
Life Sciences (General)
Report/Patent Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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IDRelationTitle20030011376Analytic PrimarySTS 107 Shuttle Press Kit: Providing 24/7 Space Science Research
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