Superbugs Have Colonized The International Space Station, But A Solution Emerged

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When astronauts go to space, they leave a lot of things behind, but not bacteria. It’s already a fact that extreme spaceflight conditions can force such bacteria to become more resistant and stronger, but on the other hand, the rough conditions lower the immune system of the stressed crew.

All these effects will reportedly become much worse with mission duration.

Phys.org reports that researchers have taken another small step to deep space exploration by testing a new “silver- and ruthenium-based antimicrobial coating aboard the International Space Station (ISS).”

The study has been published in Frontiers in Microbiology, and the notes show that the AGXX “dramatically reduced the number of bacteria on contamination-prone surfaces—and could help protect future astronauts beyond the moon and Mars.”

Astronauts have a weak immune system

Due to microgravity, cosmic radiation, stress and all the conditions in space, astronauts have a fragile immune system, and the vulnerable bodies can put them at risk due to strong bacteria.

“Spaceflight can turn harmless bacteria into potential pathogens,” says senior study author Prof. Elisabeth Grohmann of Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin.

She continued and explained that “Just as stress hormones leave astronauts vulnerable to infection, the bacteria they carry become hardier—developing thick protective coatings and resistance to antibiotics—and more vigorous, multiplying and metabolizing faster.”

In order to address the issue, Grohmann and her colleagues have tested a brand new antimicrobial coating AGXX on a contaminated surface – the toilet door.

“AGXX contains both silver and ruthenium, conditioned by a vitamin derivative, and it kills all kinds of bacteria as well as certain fungi, yeasts, and viruses. The effects are similar to bleach—except the coating is self-regenerating, so it never gets used up,” explains Grohmann.

The coating was extremely effective. After six months, there were no more bacteria on the surfaces.


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