Antibiotic Effectiveness in Space-1 (AES-1) - 07.29.14
ISS Science for Everyone
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Antibiotic Effectiveness in Space-1 (AES-1) examines cultures of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria to investigate the reduced effectiveness of antibiotics in microgravity. Understanding how bacteria withstand large amounts of antibiotics improves methods to reduce infection risks during space missions. Additionally, drug-resistant bacteria cause 2 million infections and 23,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. Understanding how some bacteria grow in the presence of antibiotics may lead to new treatments that benefit patients on Earth.
Science Results for Everyone
OpNom NLP-Vaccine 21
BioServe Space Technologies, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, United States
Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
National Laboratory (NL)
Scientific Discovery, Space Exploration, Earth Benefits
ISS Expedition Duration
September 2013 - March 2015
Previous ISS Missions
Antibiotic Effectiveness in Space-1 (AES-1) evaluates the effectiveness of antibiotics against bacteria grown in the space flight environment.
When the Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacterial cultures are undergoing exponential growth, various concentrations of known antibiotics are introduced. After being exposed to the antibiotics for approximately 12-24 hours, the experiment is stopped by introducing fixatives into the cultures.
Bacteria in space that are still able to grow at what would be normally inhibitory concentrations of the antibiotic on the ground are brought back to Earth and assessed for alterations in gene expression and changes in shape and structure that might explain their ability to survive in the spaceflight environment.
Antibiotic Effectiveness in Space-1(AES-1) evaluates the effectiveness of antibiotics against bacteria grown in the space flight environment. Group Activation Packs (GAPs) containing eight Fluids Processing Apparatuses (FPAs) are used to process the bacterial samples. Specifically, once on orbit, the GAP hardware is operated so as to inoculate nutrient rich media with Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacterial cultures. When the bacteria are undergoing exponential growth, various concentrations of known antibiotics including Gentamicin Sulfate and Colistin Sulfate are introduced. After being exposed to the antibiotics for approximately 12-24 hours, half of the samples are preserved by introducing RNAlater® II (a preservative) into the cultures and half of the samples are fixed by introducing paraformaldehyde (fixative). Bacteria in space that are still able to grow at what would be normally inhibitory concentrations of the antibiotic on the ground are brought back to Earth and assessed for alterations in gene expression and changes in shape and structure that might explain their ability to survive in the space flight environment. This work may lead to a greater understanding of antibiotic efficacy and more effective treatment of infectious disease world-wide.
Cultures of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria are grown in a nutrient-rich broth on the International Space Station, and as they multiply, crewmembers add various concentrations of antibiotics. The cultures are chemically preserved after 12-24 hours so they can be returned to Earth for analysis. Understanding changes in the bacteria’s shape, structure and gene expression provides insight into how they are able to thrive in space flight environments. This leads to more effective methods for preventing infection on future space missions.
Several species of bacteria are evolving to resist treatment with common antibiotics, leading to millions of infections and costly hospitalizations each year. Improved understanding of the molecular mechanisms for antibiotic resistance in certain bacteria leads to more effective treatments.
The flight crew processes the experiment on orbit. Essentially, operations consist of attaching a handle to each GAP and turning the handle until two of the three fluids within the FPAs are combined. At that time the experiment is considered activated. The same step is followed for termination where all three fluids are now combined. Finally, once the experiment is preserved or fixed, crew intervention is required to transfer the samples within the hardware to the appropriate cold or ambient stowage.
Hardware with samples ascends to ISS within a CGBA. Once the experiment reaches the ISS the crew transfers the experiment from the launch vehicle to the ISS. The CGBAs temperature is set to the required temperature. Over the next two days, preservation or fixation time points require crew interaction. Once cells are sampled, preserved or fixed, the cells within the associated hardware are stowed at -80°C or ambient. The hardware with the preserved/fixed cells remains at the correct stowage temperature until they are returned to Earth.
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