Skip to main content

'Space superbugs could threaten astronauts'

Astronauts are at an increased risk of infections in space as weightlessness of outer cosmos can make germs even nastier, researchers say. In space, astronauts encounter greatly reduced levels of gravity, often erroneously referred to as zero gravity. This near-weightlessness can have a number of abnormal effects on astronauts, such as causing muscle and bone loss. "We seek to unveil novel cellular and molecular mechanisms related to infectious disease progression that cannot be observed here on Earth, and to translate our findings to novel strategies for treatment and prevention," said microbiologist Cheryl Nickerson at Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute. Although microgravity can distort normal biology, conventional procedures for studying microbes on Earth can cause their own distortions, SPACE.com reported. Experiments on Earth often involve whirling cells around to keep them from settling downward in a clump due to gravity. The most common sites of human infection are the mucosal, gastrointestinal and urogenital tracts, where fluid shear is typically low. In an earlier series of NASA space shuttle and ground-based experiments, Nickerson and her colleagues discovered that spaceflight actually boosted the virulence, or disease-causing potential, of the food-borne germ Salmonella. "Does microgravity alter how Salmonella behaves? You bet it does, in a profound and novel way," Nickerson said. This aggressive bacterium infects an estimated 94 million people globally and causes 155,000 deaths each year. "By studying the effect of spaceflight on the disease-causing potential of major pathogens like Salmonella, we may be able to provide insight into infectious disease mechanisms that cannot be attained using traditional experimental approaches on Earth, where gravity can mask key cellular responses," Nickerson said. These findings are of special concern for astronaut health during extended spaceflight missions. Space travel already weakens astronaut immunity, and these findings reveal that astronauts may have to further deal with the threat of disease-causing microbes that have boosted infectious abilities.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

MUNSHI PREMCHAND STORIES IN COMIC FORMAT

Stories by modern Hindi and Urdu literary legend, Munshi Premchand are now available in comic format published by Amar Chitra Katha. The comic books in Hindi detailing two stories by the late literary phenomenon, is part of the publisher's contemporary classics section, which began in 2012 with stories by author Ruskin Bond. "We are launching the comics at the World Book Fair and it is our tribute to Premchand. The idea is to make his stories familiar with children," Reena Puri, Editor, Amar Chitra Katha told PTI. The stories "Buddhi Kaki" (The old Aunt) and "Do Bail" (Two Oxen) have been scripted and illustrated by Pratima Singh and Surendra Murthy. The English version of the comics translated by Nandini Nair is also set for launch within a few weeks, says Reena. The books are priced at Rs 50 each. "Buddhi Kaki" first published in 1921 is the story of an old childless widow who craves for love after she bequeaths her entir…

WORLD's FIRST UNDERWORLD TENNIS COURT IN DUBAI

Dubai, which boasts of the world's highest tennis court, may also become home to the first underwater tennis centre where spectators can watch games from below or above the sea life through a massive glass dome. Krzysztof Kotala, a Polish architect who owns a studio in Warsaw, is currently seeking investment from local players to make the ambitious project a reality. Interestingly, the proposed location for the project (arguably one of the world's lowest tennis courts) is just next door to the highest tennis court atop the Burj al Arab skyscraper in Dubai. "There is not an investor but I would like to get interest (from them) as I think it is a good idea," Kotala, 30, was quoted as saying by a local magazine. When asked why he chose Dubai for his project, Kotala said the Gulf city had a rich tradition of tennis. "This will be something original. This should be somewhere where there is the tradition of tennis. Dubai is perfect for this idea," he said. The in…