Microbiology & Virology

A Simulation Indicates That Microbes Proliferate Under Disinfection Measures In The Space Station

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
May 19, 2024
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A Simulation Indicates That Microbes Proliferate Under Disinfection Measures In The Space Station
The overview of the community succession under all treatments. The xaxis represents the QAC concentration (e.g. 1 stands for 100%, 10-1 stands for 10%), where the left side of axis includes groups without LDIR and the right side includes groups with LDIR; y-axis represents the dilution ratio (e.g. 10-1 stands for 10%, 10-2 stands for 1%). each position on the x-y plane corresponds to a different treatment. z833 axis denotes the number of days, and the seven spheres in each cluster mean seven days of community succession for a treatment group. The radius of the spheres indicates the total biomass in the community (compared to the maximum value and taken as log ten). RGB color shows the percentage of different species (Blue, red and green stand for Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, respectively). WO means “without”. The 3D version is uploaded as a .fig file in the supplementary materials. — biorxiv.org

The long-term stay on the space station requirement poses a knotty issue about the stable hardware and reliable guarantee of astronauts’ health. Despite regular cleaning with wipes, microbes still proliferate in the space station.

This study distilled three key factors—low-dose ionizing radiation, dilution and quaternary ammonium compound from the scenario. Species abundance and differential metabolites were applied to test their sole/combined influences on the three-simple-species microbial community succession.

Mechanisms were built in mathematical models to generate the structural and behavior similarity with the phenomena.

The results showed that LDIR, dilution and QAC, solely or jointly, could contribute to microbial proliferation. The synergy of disturbances might convert them from harmful factors to rewarding ones (e.g. the transformation of QAC into nutrients under LDIR), leading to this “Ecological Surprise”.

These results shed light on the mechanisms driving microbial community succession in the space station and highlighted the need for tailored biocontrol strategies in the specific environment.

Cure or Curse? Simulation Indicates that Microbes Proliferate under Disinfection Measures in the Space Station, Shuaishuai Li, Xiaolei Liu, Letian Chen, Hong Liu, Dawei Hu


Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻