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Abstract Background Modern advances in sequencing technology have enabled the census of microbial members of many natural ecosystems. Recently, attention is increasingly being paid to the microbial residents of human-made, built ecosystems, both private homes and public subways, office buildings, and hospitals.
Here, we report results of the characterization of the microbial ecology of a singular built environment, the International Space Station ISS. Results Sterile swabs were used to sample 15 surfaces onboard the ISS.
The sites sampled were designed to be analogous to samples collected for 1 the Wildlife of Our Homes project and 2 a study of cell phones and shoes that were concurrently being collected for another component of Project MERCCURI.
Sequencing of the 16S rRNA genes amplified from DNA extracted from each swab was used to produce a census of the microbes present on each surface sampled. Conclusions While significantly different from homes on Earth and the Human Microbiome Project samples analyzed here, the microbial community composition on the ISS was more similar to home surfaces than to the human microbiome samples.
There was no discernible biogeography of microbes on the 15 ISS surfaces, although this may be a reflection of the small sample size we were able to obtain.
Introduction There is a growing appreciation of the importance of microbial communities found in diverse environments from the oceans, to soil, to the insides and outsides of plants and animals.
One relatively unexplored type of built environment is that found in space.
As humans expand their reach into the solar system, with renewed interest in space travel, and with the possibility of the colonization of other planets and moons, it is of critical importance to understand the microbial ecology of the built environments being utilized for such endeavors.
Early work primarily focused on ensuring that the surfaces of spacecraft were free of microbial contaminants in an effort to avoid inadvertent panspermia seeding other planets with microbes from Earth Pierson, Work on human-occupied spacecraft such as Mir, Space Shuttles, and Skylab focused more on microbes with possible human health effects.
With the launch of the ISS, it was understood that this new built environment would be permanently housing microbes as well as humans. Efforts were made to establish a baseline microbial census.
For example, Novikova et al. These early studies were unavoidably limited by their reliance on culturing to identify microbial species. Originally launched inthe capability of the LOCAD-PTS was expanded in to include an assay for fungi beta-glucan, a fungal cell wall component and Gram positive bacteria lipoteichoic acid, a component of the cell wall of Gram positive bacteria.
A more recent study examined several samples collected on the Japanese module of the ISS over a period of four years, also sequenced with pyrosequencing Ichijo et al. The advantage of Illumina sequencing, relative to previous pyrosequencing efforts, is the significant increase in depth of sequencing.
This increased depth allowed us to analyze 15—20 times as many sequences as these earlier studies. The sample matching is imperfect; for example, doorsills were used in houses because they collect dust but, in the microgravity of the ISS, dust accumulates in air filters.A research paper is a primary source that is, it reports the methods and results of an original study performed by the authors.
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