Microbial Dynamics in International Space Station - I (Microbe-I) - 11.22.16

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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 analyzed approximately one year after the module is installed to the ISS.  Microbe detection sheet (MDS) and swab culture tests of orbital samples and examination by electron microscopy show no microbial structures.  Fungal DNA is detected, probably from human contamination. This work contributes 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 biota approximately 1 year after the module had docked to the ISS. 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. The fungi in Kibo were probably derived from contamination due to humans, while those in the laboratory came from the environment (eg, the soil). In conclusion, the cleanliness of Kibo was equivalent to that in a clean room environment on the ground.

Bacterial Populations (Nasu)
Since 2009, Japanese scientists have been continuously monitoring the bacterial presence in Kibo, the Japanese Experiment Module 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. Bacterial abundance on the surfaces in the Kibo was then determined, and it was lower than that on the surfaces in the laboratory on Earth (105 bacteria/cm2), except for the return air grill, and bacteria detected in the Kibo were a part of the human skin microflora. From these studies of microbial abundance and their source, scientists concluded that the Kibo module has been microbiologically well maintained during the during the 4 plus years of operation covered by the study; 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

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Venkateswaran K, 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.

    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.

    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]

    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.

    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.

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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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