Microbial monitoring of spacecraft and associated environments.
ABSTRACT Rapid microbial monitoring technologies are invaluable in assessing contamination of spacecraft and associated environments. Universal and widespread elements of microbial structure and chemistry are logical targets for assessing microbial burden. Several biomarkers such as ATP, LPS, and DNA (ribosomal or spore-specific), were targeted to quantify either total bioburden or specific types of microbial contamination. The findings of these assays were compared with conventional, culture-dependent methods. This review evaluates the applicability and efficacy of some of these methods in monitoring the microbial burden of spacecraft and associated environments. Samples were collected from the surfaces of spacecraft, from surfaces of assembly facilities, and from drinking water reservoirs aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Culture-dependent techniques found species of Bacillus to be dominant on these surfaces. In contrast, rapid, culture-independent techniques revealed the presence of many Gram-positive and Gram-negative microorganisms, as well as actinomycetes and fungi. These included both cultivable and noncultivable microbes, findings further confirmed by DNA-based microbial detection techniques. Although the ISS drinking water was devoid of cultivable microbes, molecular-based techniques retrieved DNA sequences of numerous opportunistic pathogens. Each of the methods tested in this study has its advantages, and by coupling two or more of these techniques even more reliable information as to microbial burden is rapidly obtained.
Article: Sequencing ancient calcified dental plaque shows changes in oral microbiota with dietary shifts of the Neolithic and Industrial revolutions.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: The importance of commensal microbes for human health is increasingly recognized, yet the impacts of evolutionary changes in human diet and culture on commensal microbiota remain almost unknown. Two of the greatest dietary shifts in human evolution involved the adoption of carbohydrate-rich Neolithic (farming) diets (beginning ∼10,000 years before the present) and the more recent advent of industrially processed flour and sugar (in ∼1850). Here, we show that calcified dental plaque (dental calculus) on ancient teeth preserves a detailed genetic record throughout this period. Data from 34 early European skeletons indicate that the transition from hunter-gatherer to farming shifted the oral microbial community to a disease-associated configuration. The composition of oral microbiota remained unexpectedly constant between Neolithic and medieval times, after which (the now ubiquitous) cariogenic bacteria became dominant, apparently during the Industrial Revolution. Modern oral microbiotic ecosystems are markedly less diverse than historic populations, which might be contributing to chronic oral (and other) disease in postindustrial lifestyles.Nature Genetics 02/2013; · 35.53 Impact Factor
Article: Effects of simulated Mars conditions on the survival and growth of Escherichia coli and Serratia liquefaciens.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Escherichia coli and Serratia liquefaciens, two bacterial spacecraft contaminants known to replicate under low atmospheric pressures of 2.5 kPa, were tested for growth and survival under simulated Mars conditions. Environmental stresses of high salinity, low temperature, and low pressure were screened alone and in combination for effects on bacterial survival and replication, and then cells were tested in Mars analog soils under simulated Mars conditions. Survival and replication of E. coli and S. liquefaciens cells in liquid medium were evaluated for 7 days under low temperatures (5, 10, 20, or 30 degrees C) with increasing concentrations (0, 5, 10, or 20%) of three salts (MgCl(2), MgSO(4), NaCl) reported to be present on the surface of Mars. Moderate to high growth rates were observed for E. coli and S. liquefaciens at 30 or 20 degrees C and in solutions with 0 or 5% salts. In contrast, cell densities of both species generally did not increase above initial inoculum levels under the highest salt concentrations (10 and 20%) and the four temperatures tested, with the exception that moderately higher cell densities were observed for both species at 10% MgSO(4) maintained at 20 or 30 degrees C. Growth rates of E. coli and S. liquefaciens in low salt concentrations were robust under all pressures (2.5, 10, or 101.3 kPa), exhibiting a general increase of up to 2.5 orders of magnitude above the initial inoculum levels of the assays. Vegetative E. coli cells were maintained in a Mars analog soil for 7 days under simulated Mars conditions that included temperatures between 20 and -50 degrees C for a day/night diurnal period, UVC irradiation (200 to 280 nm) at 3.6 W m(-2) for daytime operations (8 h), pressures held at a constant 0.71 kPa, and a gas composition that included the top five gases found in the martian atmosphere. Cell densities of E. coli failed to increase under simulated Mars conditions, and survival was reduced 1 to 2 orders of magnitude by the interactive effects of desiccation, UV irradiation, high salinity, and low pressure (in decreasing order of importance). Results suggest that E. coli may be able to survive, but not grow, in surficial soils on Mars.Applied and environmental microbiology 02/2010; 76(8):2377-86. · 3.69 Impact Factor
Article: Exploring the low-pressure growth limit: evolution of Bacillus subtilis in the laboratory to enhanced growth at 5 kilopascals.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Growth of Bacillus subtilis cells, normally adapted at Earth-normal atmospheric pressure (∼101.3 kPa), was progressively inhibited by lowering of pressure in liquid LB medium until growth essentially ceased at 2.5 kPa. Growth inhibition was immediately reversible upon return to 101.3 kPa, albeit at a slower rate. A population of B. subtilis cells was cultivated at the near-inhibitory pressure of 5 kPa for 1,000 generations, where a stepwise increase in growth was observed, as measured by the turbidity of 24-h cultures. An isolate from the 1,000-generation population was obtained that showed an increase in fitness at 5 kPa when compared to the ancestral strain or a strain obtained from a parallel population that evolved for 1,000 generations at 101.3 kPa. The results from this preliminary study have implications for understanding the ability of terrestrial microbes to grow in low-pressure environments such as Mars.Applied and environmental microbiology 10/2010; 76(22):7559-65. · 3.69 Impact Factor