Antibiotics may not affect Space Station Bacteria anymore

Microbes abroad the ISS (International Space Station) seem to have evolved into smarter versions compared to their siblings back on Earth. These microbes have been resisting antibiotics by changing shape which is highly unusual.
According to the website Phys.org, an experiment was conducted by scientists from university of Colorado in Boulder’s BioServe Space Technologies in hopes of treating E. coli bacteria strains on the ISS with varied concentrations of the antibiotic named Gentamicin Sulphate. Depending on the concentration of the antibiotic the result was noticeably different than that on Earth. While on Earth this antibiotic is powerful enough to kill the bacteria, the same was not seen on space. One such instant of shape change was when the bacteria had 13 times more cells and 73% less cell volume as compared to their Earthbound control group.
These cultured bacteria have been named as “Shape-shifting” by scientists and media due to their increase in volume and decrease in size.
In a statement from Luis Zea, lead author of the study and BioServe research associate, quoted by Phys.org, “We were aware of the fact that bacteria behave differently in space and that it takes higher concentration of antibiotics in space to kill them”. But the shocking element of thi8s experiment was the fact that these bacteria changed shapes which was observed by the scientists while conducting a systematic analysis of the changing physical appearance of the bacteria.
The bacteria strains residing at the ISS have natural diffusion as the only source of nourishment due to absence of buoyancy, sedimentation and characteristics based on gravity. To add to this revelation, Zea’s team provided more astonishing facts related to these bacteria. According to the team, the bacteria cell envelope, which acts as the outer membrane of the microbe was thicker with the strain aboard ISS which adds up to the list of reasons why the bacteria in space is more resistant to antibiotic. These bacteria also have a tendency to grow in clumps, which might also involve shell of the outer cells that protects the inner cells from antibiotics.
As noted by the Daily Mail, another significant take-away from this study is that the ISS residing bacteria strain developed an outer membrane vesicle in some cases. This cell feature helps the cells to communicate with each other which add up to their resistance against antibiotics. This recent discovery can provide an insight into resistant bacteria which can help scientists develop more powerful antibiotics to protect astronauts and Earth bound residents from any future bacterial attack.

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