Development of Multiple Antibiotic Resistance By Opportunistic Bacterial Pathogens During Human Space Flight (BRIC-18-1) - 08.18.16

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
The Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) hardware supports a variety of biological investigations. The Development of Multiple Antibiotic Resistance By Opportunistic Bacterial Pathogens During Human Space Flight (BRIC-18-1) investigation tests the hypothesis that microgravity increases the development of simultaneous resistance to rifampicin (RIF) and trimethoprim (TMP), two antibiotics that are often prescribed together.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Wayne Nicholson, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: BRIC-18-1

Principal Investigator(s)
Wayne Nicholson, Ph.D., University of Florida, Merritt Island, FL, United States

Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
Patricia Fajardo-Cavazos, University of Florida - Space Life Sciences Laboratory, Merritt Island, FL, United States
Ralf Moeller, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Cologne, Germany

Developer(s)
NASA Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2014 - September 2014

Expeditions Assigned
39/40

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Maintaining crew member health during long-term spaceflight is of prime importance to the success of exploration missions to destinations such as the Moon, near-Earth asteroids, or Mars.
  • The immune system weakens during Low Earth Orbit missions, rendering crew members more susceptible to infection.
  • Microgravity has been shown to increase virulence and antibiotic resistance in certain bacterial species.
  • This investigation tests the effects of microgravity of the combination treatment of RIF and TMP antibiotics.

Description
Maintaining crew member health during long-term spaceflight is of prime importance to the success of exploration missions to destinations such as the Moon, near-Earth asteroids, or Mars. The immune system weakens during missions in Low Earth Orbit, rendering astronauts mores susceptible to infection. Microgravity induces in certain bacterial species increased virulence properties such as: adherence to mammalian cells, biofilm formation, resistance to acid and macrophages, and antibiotic resistance. As part of the normal population of microbial inhabitants on and within the human body, crew members carry many microbes considered “opportunistic pathogens”, i.e., normally harmless microbes with the potential to cause disease in hosts with lowered immune function. Opportunistic infections are often treated with combinations of two antibiotics that differ in their mechanisms of action. Combination treatment can be effective because (i) certain antibiotic combinations work synergistically to more effectively combat the pathogen than either drug given alone, and (ii) the probability of the pathogen evolving resistance to two antibiotics simultaneously is much lower than that of becoming resistant to a single antibiotic.
 

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Applications

Space Applications
The BRIC-PDFU hardware provides the capability to conduct biological experiments and deliver fluids in one self-contained piece of hardware without the need for a glovebox.  This approach minimizes resources such as volume, mass and crew time. Understanding multidrug resistance in opportunistic pathogens during long-term human space flight directly benefits crew member health and the success of extended missions in both Low Earth Orbit and in interplanetary space.

Earth Applications
The types and amounts of antibiotics to be included on an extended human space mission are carefully selected for the predicted needs of the crew members long before the actual launch. Any factors altering a potential pathogen's susceptibility to the antibiotics available onboard could result in treatment failure and severely compromise the crew members' health. The results from this proposed study contribute to our knowledge concerning how antibiotic resistance arises in the space flight environment. This data aids the ongoing development of guidelines determining antibiotic use during long-term space flight.

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Operations

Operational Requirements and Protocols

Cells are transferred in dry statis and are activated 7 days after docking with a TSY+10% glycerol growth medium. After a 7 day growth period, the BRIC canisters are stored at -95°C in the MELFI until landing and handover. Frozen samples are planned for return on the same SpaceX mission as launched.

At 7 and 14 days after docking, the BRIC-18-1 payload hardware is accessed for activation. A rod is removed from the Rod Kit and inserted into the BRIC-PDFU Actuator Tool. The BRIC-PDFU Actuator Tool is attached to the selected BRIC-PDFU canister lid in position 1 and is used to mechanically force TSY+10% glycerol growth medium into the Petri dishes. The process is repeated until all the PDFUs are activated in both canisters. Seven days after activation, the BRIC canisters must be transferred to the MELFI for freezing of the samples at -80°C or less.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

CategoryReference
Plant and Microbial Biology P2

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Results/More Information

Planning is currently underway for future long-duration missions to the Moon, near-Earth asteroids, or Mars, and one particular concern for planners of long-duration missions is the possibility of infectious disease among crew members. Prolonged spaceflight has been shown to depress astronauts’ immune systems, thereby increasing their risk for infections, and our Earth-based knowledge of the emergence of antibiotic resistance germs may not be wholly applicable to the human spaceflight environment. Understanding how microgravity affects the development of not only bacterial antibiotic resistance, but of bacterial growth and metabolism in general is crucial. To investigate how bacteria mutate in space, normal human skin bacteria (Staphylococcus epidermidis) were cultivated on orbit in the International Space Station (ISS), along with identical ground controls (GCs) cultures. Results show S. epidermidis grown on ISS exhibited significantly lower living counts but significantly higher frequencies of genetic alterations which result in increased resistance to an antibiotic, rifampicin (Rif), used to treat bacterial infections. This finding suggests that the human spaceflight environment induces unique physiologic stresses on growing bacterial cells leading to changes in their drug resistance and harmful potential. Further experiments using a greater variety of microorganisms will be needed to test if this also holds true for a broad group of pathogens.

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Results Publications

    Fajardo-Cavazos P, Nicholson WL.  Cultivation of Staphylococcus epidermidis in the human spaceflight environment leads to alterations in the frequency and spectrum of spontaneous rifampicin-resistance mutations in the rpoB gene. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2016; 7: 999. DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00999. PMID: 27446039.

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Ground Based Results Publications

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ISS Patents

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Related Publications

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Related Websites
University of Florida Faculty Website
Institute of Aerospace Medicine

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Imagery

image BRIC Canister.
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image BRIC Actuator Tool and Rod.
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image Actuation of BRIC Canister.
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image NASA Image: ISS039E019093 - NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio activates BRIC-18-1 (Biological Research in Canisters).
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image NASA Image: ISS039E019080 - NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio activates BRIC-18-1 (Biological Research in Canisters).
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image NASA Image: ISS039E019082 - NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio activates BRIC-18-1 (Biological Research in Canisters).
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