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Kent Chen '22

"Hitchhiking Microbes" : Influence of microgravity on Pseudomonas aeruginosa ability to form biofilms and to produce pyocyanin toxins

New and rapid advancements in the spaceflight industry over the last-50 years have enabled humankind to travel to space more frequently and for longer durations–setting up the next phase of exploration into the cosmic frontier. A concern with humanity’s venture into space is that microgravity during spaceflight poses detrimental effects, i.e., the dysregulation of organismal gastrointestinal, cardiac, skeletal-muscular, and immune system function. These concerns are exacerbated when considering how opportunistic pathogens–including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a major causative agent of opportunistic infections–have been isolated aboard the International Space Station. Preliminary inflight studies suggested that the microgravity environment alters bacterial growth and physiology–increasing final cell density, antibiotic resistance, and virulence. Together, the combined microgravitational effects of an impaired immune system and of enhanced microbial community behaviors substantiate a need to understand how long-term microgravity drives colonization- and virulence-related factors; P. aeruginosa in space can pose major health hazards for future space travelers.