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Lab Researchers, NASA Find Space Station’s Surface Microbial Profile Resembles Skin of its Crew Members

27 Jul 2020, 11:21 UTC
Lab Researchers, NASA Find Space Station’s Surface Microbial Profile Resembles Skin of its Crew Members
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An astronaut dons gloves before starting to collect samples from an International Space Station environmental surface. (Credit: NASA)

LIVERMORE, Calif. (Lawrence Liivermore National Laboratory PR) — A study conducted by a team of national laboratory and NASA researchers has found that the environment of the International Space Station is affected by the microbial composition of the astronauts themselves.

The five-year research effort represents the first study to compare the space station’s environmental microbial profile (or microbiome) to an astronaut’s microbiome using metagenomic DNA sequencing techniques.

Their paper, published in the scientific journal Public Library of Science (PLOS) One, is the work of scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and three NASA centers – the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and Johnson Space Center.

“It’s very important to have continual monitoring of the microbiome on the space station because it will help us identify the potential for any microbes that could harm the astronauts’ health,” said LLNL biologist Crystal Jaing, the paper’s lead author and the principal investigator for the Microbial Tracking (MT)-2 study.

The scientists characterized one astronaut’s microbial profile, taking 88 body swabs of the astronaut’s mouth, nose, ear, skin and saliva ...

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