ESA title
Migration of surface-associated microbial communities in spaceflight habitats - SciSpacE

Migration of surface-associated microbial communities in spaceflight habitats

Astronauts are spending longer periods locked up in ships or stations for scientific and exploration spatial missions. The International Space Station (ISS) has been inhabited continuously for more than 20 years and the duration of space stays by crews could lengthen with the objectives of human presence on the moon and Mars. If the environment of these space habitats is designed for the comfort of astronauts, it is also conducive to other forms of life such as embarked microorganisms.

The latter, most often associated with surfaces in the form of biofilm, have been implicated in significant degradation of the functionality of pieces of equipment in space habitats. The most recent research suggests that microgravity could increase the persistence, resistance and virulence of pathogenic microorganisms detected in these communities, endangering the health of astronauts and potentially jeopardizing long-duration manned missions. In this review, we describe the mechanisms and dynamics of installation and propagation of these microbial communities associated with surfaces (spatial migration), as well as long-term processes of adaptation and evolution in these extreme environments (phenotypic and genetic migration), with special reference to human health. We also discuss the means of control envisaged to allow a lasting cohabitation between these vibrant microscopic passengers and the astronauts.