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Space & Astronomy

Microbes 'unknown to science' found on ISS

By T.K. Randall
March 18, 2021 · Comment icon 12 comments

The bacteria likely originated in soil samples from Earth. Image Credit: NASA
Scientists have discovered three strains of bacteria on the orbiting outpost that have never been seen before.
While the idea of finding unidentified organisms on a space station might sound like the plot of a science-fiction horror movie - these particular specimens are thankfully nothing to worry about.

They were first identified by researchers from the United States and India in samples collected from various locations throughout the International Space Station over the last few years.

Four strains were found in total - all of them belonging to a family of bacteria found in soil and water.

Three however - which were found in the station's overhead panels, dining room and cupola module - had never been seen before and were entirely new to science.
The fourth, known as Methylorubrum rhodesianum, was found in one of the station's HEPA filters.

While the presence of these bacteria aboard the orbiting outpost might seem surprising, it's worth remembering that the astronauts have been carrying out plant growth experiments for years.

"The whole genome sequence assembly of these three ISS strains reported here will enable the comparative genomic characterization of ISS isolates with Earth counterparts in future studies," the study authors wrote.

"This will further aid in the identification of genetic determinants that might potentially be responsible for promoting plant growth under microgravity conditions and contribute to the development of self-sustainable plant crops for long-term space missions in future."

Source: Science Alert | Comments (12)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #3 Posted by moonman 3 years ago
But the chances of brand new ones being found on a space station of all places seems a little suspect, no? If I go take a random sample from something outside my house (or in my house or anywhere for that matter) what are the chances of finding something new in that?
Comment icon #4 Posted by toast 3 years ago
The option is given anyway and bacteria from the Earth is on board of every single support/transport carrier. The station isnt sterile, even not close to that, and microbiology is a field of research up there as well.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Hyperionxvii 3 years ago
Is there no reason why there couldn't be? I mean we already know that bacteria can survive extreme conditions and every single component of ISIS was made on earth, where there are... bacteria from earth.
Comment icon #6 Posted by MysteryMike 3 years ago
2021 is certainly living up to 2020s legacy as its successor! 
Comment icon #7 Posted by Occupational Hubris 3 years ago
They're not really brand new. While they are classified as new species, they are also part of the Methylobacterium family which is found here on Earth. 
Comment icon #8 Posted by Seti42 3 years ago
If I analyzed everything in my apartment, there's a good chance a 'new' bacteria would be in there. Not that my place is filthy, it's just that we haven't come close to naming every bacterium in existence on and around the earth. There's billions of them, and they mutate/evolve so quickly that new ones are born pretty much daily.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 3 years ago
Is your house equipped with a functioning microbiology lab? Is your house subject to higher than normal levels of cosmic radiation? Is your house in a micro-gravity environment? If the answer to any of these questions is, "no", then your comparison is invalid.
Comment icon #10 Posted by moonman 3 years ago
What does that have to do with anything? You missed the point entirely. I'm just trying to decipher if these new bacteria found on the ISS are a big deal or not. If so, why? What makes them special, if anything? Are they trying to say they only exist there? I'm not really understanding the importance of the story, if these bacteria are just regular unknowns from earth. Are they mutations? Extraterrestrial? Normal ones from Earth? What are they trying to say?
Comment icon #11 Posted by Mr.United_Nations 3 years ago
They are different species 
Comment icon #12 Posted by razman 3 years ago
Could be this thing ------  like from the movie "Life". 

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