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Shuttle experiment monitors space super-bugs

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An experiment on the current space shuttle mission is exploring how to prevent bacteria becoming more infectious in space.
The experiment on space shuttle Endeavour mission STS-123, will determine whether changing ion concentrations may prevent space-borne salmonella bacteria becoming more virulent.

A previous experiment on the shuttle Atlantis two years ago showed spaceflight produced salmonella bacteria that were three times more likely to cause disease compared with those that were cultured on the ground.

The experiment showed that mutations during the space mission changed the expression of 167 genes.

Investigators in the new experiment believe the information gained will prove beneficial in assessing microbiological risks and reducing risk of infections on future missions.

Cheryl Nickerson, project leader at Arizona State University’s Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, said: ‘NASA is giving us the opportunity to independently replicate the virulence studies of Salmonella typhimurium from our last shuttle experiment and to do a follow-up experiment to test our hypothesis about new ways this bacteria causes disease in this unique environment.’
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