The International Space Station has been infested by an infectious ‘space bug’ organism, which scientists have warned could cause disease.
A new study by NASA has discovered that different varieties of Enterobacter, a bug similar to that found in hospitals on earth, have been discovered on the orbiting space base.
The researchers focused on five strains of the bacteria which were isolated from the space toilet and exercise platform on the space station in March 2015.
The report, published in the BMC Microbiology journal, concluded the space bugs had a 79 per cent chance of causing disease and raised concerns that astronauts could be put at risk if the organisms are found to be drug resistant.
Dr Nitin Singh, the lead author on the report, said: "Given the multi-drug resistance results for these [bacteria] and the increased chance of pathogenicity we have identified, these species potentially pose important health considerations for future missions."
The researchers have stressed that the organisms do not yet appear to be strong enough to make humans ill or pose a threat to the astronauts inside the station.
‘It is important to understand that the strains found on the ISS were not virulent, which means they are not an active threat to human health, but something to be monitored,’ Dr Singh added.
Dr Kasthuri Venkateswaran, a microbiologist at Jet Propulsion Laboratory Biotechnology and Planetary Protection Group and a fellow author of the study, said that three of the strains belonged to a species which can cause disease in newborn babies.
The scientists are now keen to perform further studies to see what kind of a threat the bacteria poses.
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