Space Station Water Contaminated with Bacteria

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After Discovering Space Station Water Contaminated with Two Strains of Bacteria, Officials Report it Just as Safe as Water on Earth. 

Any time one finds an unexpected contaminant in something as essential as drinking water little alarms should go off. After all, waterborne pathogens can lead to some serious health issues. From simple diarrhea and nausea to severely debilitating internal carnage… Trust me, if you’ve never had a waterborne illness, you don’t want one. Add to that an extremely tight working environment like the International Space Station, and a waterborne disease could be disastrous. So when scientists discovered the space station water contaminated with bacteria, they were naturally concerned. 

A Longstanding Issue

In truth, if the contaminated space station water were a real threat, the effects would have revealed themselves by now. NASA first installed the water dispenser in question on the ISS eleven years ago. However, not long after it was installed, scientists aboard the station took samples. To their surprise, they found two different strains of bacteria in the water and in the dispenser itself. 

The two strains of bacteria they found called Burkholderia cepacia and Burkholderia contaminans belong to the group of bacteria known as Burkholderia. In fact, here on Earth, some of those bacteria cause lung infections. Naturally, then, officials were keen to figure out what kind of bacteria they were dealing with.

These two particular microbes are incredibly persistent, too. Despite regular flushing and cleaning with extra strength solutions, the bacteria persist. Leaving the space station water contaminated. 

Fortunately, The Results Are In

Last month research published a study in the journal PLOS ONE that cleared the air water. The study ran from 2010 through 2014 and included sequencing the genomes from the bacterial strains. When the dust settled, they found that the bacteria most likely contaminated the dispenser before it arrived at the ISS. After that, the water running through the dispenser became contaminated as well. Never fear, though. Even with their space station water contaminated, astronauts aboard the ISS have little to worry about from Burkholderia cepacia and Burkholderia contaminans. 

Researchers report that “Based on the information presented here, it seems likely that the two populations of Burkholderia present in the ISS PWS are not more virulent than those that might be encountered on planet.” 

They also maintain confidence in the fact that if an astronaut were to become infected by the bacteria, antibiotics would effectively treat the disease. 

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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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