Rapid Monitoring of Bacteria and Fungi Aboard the International Space Station (ISS)
Jake, Maule, et al. (2009). "Rapid Monitoring of Bacteria and Fungi Aboard the International Space Station (ISS)." 47th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting including The New Horizons Forum and Aerospace Exposition
Microorganisms within spacecraft have traditionally been monitored with culture-based techniques. These techniques involve growth of environmental samples (cabin water, air or surfaces) on agar-type media for several days, followed by visualization of resulting colonies or return of samples to Earth for ground-based analysis. Data obtained over the past 4 decades have enhanced our understanding of the microbial ecology within space stations. However, the approach has been limited by the following factors: i) Many microorganisms (estimated > 95%) in the environment cannot grow on conventional growth media; ii) Significant time lags (3-5 days for incubation and up to several months to return samples to ground); iii) Condensation in contact slides hinders colony counting by crew; and iv) Growth of potentially harmful microorganisms, which must then be disposed of safely. This report describes the operation of a new culture-independent technique onboard the ISS for rapid analysis (within minutes) of endotoxin and beta-1, 3-glucan, found in the cell walls of gramnegative bacteria and fungi, respectively. The technique involves analysis of environmental samples with the Limulus Amebocyte Lysate (LAL) assay in a handheld device, known as the Lab-On-a-Chip Application Development Portable Test System (LOCAD-PTS). LOCADPTS was launched to the ISS in December 2006, and here we present data obtained from Mach 2007 until the present day. These data include a comparative study between LOCADPTS analysis and existing culture-based methods; and an exploratory survey of surface endotoxin and beta-1, 3-glucan throughout the ISS. While a general correlation between LOCAD-PTS and traditional culture-based methods should not be expected, we will suggest new requirements for microbial monitoring based upon culture-independent parameters measured by LOCAD-PTS.
DOI: doi:10.2514/6.2009-959 10.2514/6.2009-959