Space journey made germs more potent

Germs sent into orbit on the space shuttle last year came back to Earth three times more virulent, a finding that could have major implications for astronauts on the International Space Station or on proposed voyages to the moon and Mars.

Researchers knew that space travel depressed the immune systems of astronauts, so the observation that infectious agents can become more pathogenic in space could lead to new requirements for sterilization of food and other items, as well as to new protocols for the treatment of infections during missions, experts said.

The findings could have relevance for humans on Earth because the bacterium in question is common and can have severe consequences, said microbiologist Cheryl Nickerson of Arizona State University, who led the experiment.

Source:  Los Angeles Times

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