Microbial Dynamics in International Space Station - I (Microbe-I) - 07.12.17

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

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
The Microbe-I experiment monitors microbes on board the ISS which may affect the health of crewmembers.
Science Results for Everyone
Scientists are monitoring the abundance and diversity of fungi and bacteria in the Japanese Experiment Module of the International Space Station (ISS). Samples are collected and analyzed periodically after the module is installed to the ISS. Microbe detection sheet (MDS) and swab culture tests of orbital samples and examination by electron microscopy are methods to detect microbes. This research and monitoring contribute not only to safety on long-duration spaceflight, but also to development of a standard microbial sampling method for the pharmaceutical and food industries, better hygiene in other closed habitats, and, potentially, better water quality control.

The following content was provided by Koichi Makimura, Ph.D., M.D., Masao Nasu, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Information provided courtesy of the Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
Koichi Makimura, Ph.D., M.D., Teikyo University, Tokyo, Japan
Masao Nasu, Osaka University, Osaka, Japan

Ichiro Sato, Ph.D., Teikyo University, Tokyo, Japan
Yayoi Nishiyama, Teikyo University Institute of Medical Mycology, Toyko, Japan
Takashi Q. Yamazaki, Ph.D., Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency, Tsukuba, Japan
Yuji Tsukii, Hosei University, Tokyo, Japan
Takashi Sugita, Ph.D., Meiji Pharmaceutical University, Tokyo, Japan
Kosuke Takatori, Center for Fungal Consultation, Kanagawa, Japan
Yoshimi Benno, Riken, Saitama, Japan
Ryutaro Izumi, JAEA, Japan
Shinko Yamaguchi, Osaka University, Japan
Takashi Baba, Ph.D., Osaka University, Osaka, Japan
Toru Shimazu, Japan Space Forum, Tokyo, Japan
Kana Kuriyama, Japan Space Forum, Tsukuba, Japan
Katsuji Tani, Ph.D., Osaka Otani University, Osaka, Japan
Kazuaki Ichijo, Osaka University, Japan

Information Pending

Sponsoring Space Agency
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

Sponsoring Organization
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
April 2009 - October 2009; March 2010 - September 2010

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • The purpose of this experiment is to monitor microbes in Kibo which may affect the health of crewmembers. And the monitoring of the stress from microbes to crewmember is evaluated as a space medical impact.

Information Pending

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Space Applications
Information Pending

Earth Applications
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Operational Requirements and Protocols
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Decadal Survey Recommendations

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Results/More Information

Fungal Populations (Makimura)
Samples were collected from 3 sites in Kibo (air diffuser, handrail, and surfaces) for analysis of fungal population. Samples taken from Kibo before launch and from our laboratory were used as controls. In the case of Kibo, both microbe detection sheet (MDS) and swab culture tests of orbital samples were negative. The MDS were also examined by field emission-scanning electron microscopy; no microbial structures were detected. However, fungal DNAs were detected by real-time PCR and analyzed by the clone library method; Alternaria and Malassezia spp. were the dominant species before launch and in space, respectively. The dominant species found in specimens from the air conditioner diffuser, lab bench, door push panel, and facility surfaces on the laboratory (ground controls) were Inonotus, Cladosporium, Malassezia, and Pezicula, respectively. Dominant species found in space belonged to the genera Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Cladosporium, which are potential causative agents of allergy and opportunistic infections. The fungi in Kibo were probably derived from contamination due to humans, while those in the laboratory came from the environment (eg, the soil). Fungal strains isolated from space environments were not significantly different physically and in their response to fungicides from those of reference strains on Earth. Results suggested that fungi do not change much in response to microgravity and radiation during space flight for a few years. There have been no reports of fungal isolates causing disorders among astronauts and/or equipment on the ISS. However, there is indication of progressive fungal contamination with equipment in the ISS “KIBO” area. Sampling from equipment seems to be a useful and practical method for monitoring of the microbial condition of manned space environments. Further monitoring is necessary to protect the crew from health disorders and equipment problems in the ISS, and it is important to clean areas with high humidity regularly to maintain hygiene. Studies conclude that the cleanliness of Kibo was not much different than a clean room environment on Earth.
Bacterial Populations (Nasu)
Since 2009, Japanese scientists have been continuously monitoring the bacterial presence in the Japanese Experiment Module “KIBO” of the International Space Station (ISS), because it is vital to ensure microbiological control and crew safety during space habitation. Japanese scientists developed and used new microbe-collecting adhesive sheet to monitored the abundance and diversity of bacteria. This adhesive sheet has high operability, needs no water for sampling, is easy to transport and store, and can keep bacteria from degrading during prolonged storage of up to 12 months. The surface of the incubator, inside the door of the incubator, an air intake, air diffuser, and handrail were selected as sampling sites. Sampling was performed using the optimized swabbing method. By comparison, bacterial abundance on the surfaces in the Kibo, except for the return air grill, was generally lower than that on the surfaces in the laboratory on Earth. Most bacteria detected in Kibo are commonly found on the human body, suggesting they originated from crew members. Environmental bacteria such as Legionella were also detected on the outer surface of the incubator. Legionella is normally found in aquatic and terrestrial environments, but not among human microbiota so it seems unlikely that Legionella cells were transferred to the surface from the crew, and resupply materials could be the vehicles of microbes to the space habitats. It is important to monitor the presence of such microbes on equipment and goods brought to the station. From these studies of microbial abundance and their source, scientists conclude that the Kibo module, so far, has been microbiologically well maintained; however, microbial population may increase with prolonged stay of crew members so understanding bacterial dynamics in space habitation environments, and continuous bacterial monitoring is required.

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Results Publications

    Yamaguchi N, Roberts MS, Castro S, Oubre C, Makimura K, Leys N, Grohmann E, Sugita T, Ichijo T, Nasu M.  Microbial monitoring of crewed habitats in space—Current status and future perspectives. Microbes and Environments. 2014; 29(3): 250-260. DOI: 10.1264/jsme2.ME14031. PMID: 25130885.

    Ichijo T, Yamaguchi N, Tanigaki F, Shirakawa M, Nasu M.  Four-year bacterial monitoring in the International Space Station—Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo” with culture-independent approach. npj Microgravity. 2016 April 21; 2: 16007. DOI: 10.1038/npjmgrav.2016.7.

    Ichijo T, Yamaguchi N, Nasu M.  Bacterial monitoring in the International Space Station – “Kibo”. Journal of Disaster Research. 2015 December; 10(6): 1035-1039. DOI: 10.20965/jdr.2015.p1035.

    Ichijo T, Hieda H, Ishihara R, Yamaguchi N, Nasu M.  Bacterial monitoring with adhesive sheet in the International Space Station-"Kibo", the Japanese experiment module. Microbes and Environments. 2013 April 20; 28(2): 264-268. DOI: 10.1264/jsme2.ME12184. PMID: 23603802.

    Ott CM, Pierson DL, Shirakawa M, Tanigaki F, Hida M, Yamazaki TQ, Shimazu T, Ishioka N.  Space Habitation and Microbiology: Status and Roadmap of Space Agencies. Microbes and Environments. 2014; 29(3): 239-242. DOI: 10.1264/jsme2.ME2903rh.

    Satoh K, Yamazaki TQ, Nakayama T, Umeda Y, Alshahni MM, Makimura M, Makimura K.  Characterization of fungi isolated from the equipment used in the International Space Station or Space Shuttle. Microbiology and Immunology. 2016 May; 60(5): 295-302. DOI: 10.1111/1348-0421.12375. PMID: 26969809.

    Makimura K, Satoh K, Sugita T, Yamazaki TQ.  Fungal Biota in Manned Space Environment and Impact on Human Health. Nippon Eiseigaku Zasshi. 2011; 66(1): 77-82. DOI: 10.1265/jjh.66.77. PMID: 21358138. [Japanese]

    Venkateswaran KJ, La Duc MT, Horneck G.  Microbial existence in controlled habitats and their resistance to space conditions. Microbes and Environments. 2014 September 17; 29(3): 243-249. DOI: 10.1264/jsme2.ME14032. PMID: 25130881.

    Satoh K, Nishiyama Y, Yamazaki TQ, Sugita T, Tsukii Y, Takatori K, Benno Y, Makimura K.  Microbe-I: fungal biota analyses of Japanese experimental module KIBO, international space station which passed for about 460 days. Microbiology and Immunology. 2011 December; 55(2): 823-829. DOI: 10.1111/j.1348-0421.2011.00386.x. PMID: 21950271.

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Ground Based Results Publications

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ISS Patents

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Related Publications

    Kawaguchi Y, Yang Y, Kawashiri N, Shiraishi K, Takasu M, Narumi I, Satoh K, Hashimoto H, Nakagawa K, Tanigawa Y, Momoki Y, Tanabe M, Sugino T, Takahashi Y, Shimizu Y, Yoshida S, Kobayashi K, Yokobori S, Yamagishi A.  The possible interplanetary transfer of microbes: Assessing the viability of deinococcus spp. under the ISS environmental conditions for performing exposure experiments of microbes in the Tanpopo Mission. Origins of life and evolution of the biosphere: The Journal of the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life. 2013 October 15; 43(4): 411-428. DOI: 10.1007/s11084-013-9346-1. PMID: 24132659. [Also: Paper presented at the 12th European Workshop on Astrobiology EANA12in Stockholm, Sweden. (October 15 to 17, 2012). Editors Axel Brandenburg and Nils Holm.]

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Related Websites

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