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A Comprehensive Characterization of Microorganisms and Allergens in Spacecraft EnvironmentThe determination of risk from infectious disease during long-duration missions is composed of several factors including the concentration and the characteristics of the infectious agent. Thus, a thorough knowledge of the microorganisms aboard spacecraft is essential in mitigating infectious disease risk to the crew. While stringent steps are taken to minimize the transfer of potential pathogens to spacecraft, several medically significant organisms have been isolated from both the Mir and International Space Station (ISS). Historically, the method for isolation and identification of microorganisms from spacecraft environmental samples depended upon their growth on culture media. Unfortunately, only a fraction of the organisms may grow on a culture medium, potentially omitting those microorganisms whose nutritional and physical requirements for growth are not met. Thus, several pathogens may not have been detected, such as Legionella pneumophila, the etiological agent of Legionnaire s disease. We hypothesize that environmental analysis using non-culture-based technologies will reveal microorganisms, allergens, and microbial toxins not previously reported in spacecraft, allowing for a more complete health assessment. The development of techniques for this flight experiment, operationally named SWAB, has already provided advances in NASA laboratory processes and beneficial information toward human health risk assessment. The translation of 16S ribosomal DNA sequencing for the identification of bacteria from the SWAB experiment to nominal operations has increased bacterial speciation of environmental isolates from previous flights three fold compared to previous conventional methodology. The incorporation of molecular-based DNA fingerprinting using repetitive sequence-based polymerase chain reaction (rep-PCR) into the capabilities of the laboratory has provided a methodology to track microorganisms between crewmembers and their environment. Both 16S ribosomal DNA identification and bacterial fingerprinting have improved NASA s capability to better understand spacecraft environments and determine the source of contamination events. Preflight sampling has been completed for air, surface, and water samples. In-flight sample collection has been completed for a total of 8 air and surface sample collection sessions. In-flight hardware has performed well and the surface sampling device received positive feedback from the crew for its ease of use. While processing and analysis continue for these samples, early results have begun to provide information on the spacecraft environment. Using a method called Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis (DGGE), several air and samples were evaluated to determine the types of organisms that were present. Using only molecular techniques, DGGE does not depend on any microbial growth on culture media, allowing a more comprehensive assessment of the spacecraft interior. Preliminary results have identified several microorganisms that would not have been isolated using current technology, though none of these organisms would be considered medically significant. Interestingly, the isolation of Gram negative organisms is greater using DGGE than conventional media based isolation. The cause of this finding is unclear, though it may be the result of the technique s ability to isolate both viable and non-viable bacteria. The next phase of the SWAB sample analysis is the use of quantitative polymerase chain reaction (QPCR) to look for specific medically significant organisms. While not as broad as DGGE, QPCR is much more sensitive and may reveal findings that were not seen during the initial evaluation. Together, this information will lead toward an accurate microbial risk assessment to help set flight requirements to protect the safety, health, and performance of the crew.
Document ID
20090007817
Document Type
Conference Paper
Authors
Castro, V.A. (Wyle Integrated Science and Engineering Group Houston, TX, United States)
Ott, C.M. (NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Garcia, V.M. (Wyle Integrated Science and Engineering Group Houston, TX, United States)
John, J. (Muniz Engineering, Inc. Houston, TX, United States)
Buttner, M.P. (Nevada Univ. Las Vegas, NV, United States)
Cruz, P. (Nevada Univ. Las Vegas, NV, United States)
Pierson, D.L. (NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
February 2, 2009
Subject Category
Aerospace Medicine
Report/Patent Number
JSC-17776
Meeting Information
Human Research Program Investigators Workshop(Texas)
Distribution Limits
Public
Copyright
Other