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Project Title:  A Comprehensive Characterization of Microorganisms and Allergens in Spacecraft Environment Reduce
Fiscal Year: FY 2011 
Division: Human Research 
Research Discipline/Element:
HRP SHFH:Space Human Factors & Habitability (archival in 2017)
Start Date: 07/01/2002  
End Date: 09/30/2011  
Task Last Updated: 02/07/2012 
Download report in PDF pdf
Principal Investigator/Affiliation:   Pierson, Duane L Ph.D. / NASA Johnson Space Center 
Address:  Mail Code SK24 
Building 37, Room 1119A, 2101 NASA Parkway 
Houston , TX 77058 
Email: duane.l.pierson@nasa.gov 
Phone: 281-483-7166  
Congressional District: 22 
Web:  
Organization Type: NASA CENTER 
Organization Name: NASA Johnson Space Center 
Joint Agency:  
Comments:  
Co-Investigator(s)
Affiliation: 
Cruz, Patricia  Harry Reid Center for Environmental Studies 
Ott, C. Mark  National Aeronautics and Space Administration-JSC 
Project Information: Grant/Contract No. Internal Project 
Responsible Center: NASA JSC 
Grant Monitor: Woolford, Barbara  
Center Contact: 218-483-3701 
barbara.j.woolford@nasa.gov 
Solicitation / Funding Source: 99-HEDS-03 
Grant/Contract No.: Internal Project 
Project Type: FLIGHT 
Flight Program: Shuttle/ISS 
TechPort: No 
No. of Post Docs:
No. of PhD Candidates:
No. of Master's Candidates:
No. of Bachelor's Candidates:
No. of PhD Degrees:  
No. of Master's Degrees:  
No. of Bachelor's Degrees:  
Human Research Program Elements: (1) SHFH:Space Human Factors & Habitability (archival in 2017)
Human Research Program Risks: (1) Microhost:Risk of Adverse Health Effects Due to Host-Microorganism Interactions (IRP Rev F)
Human Research Program Gaps: (1) AEH07:What changes are occurring to microorganisms during human exploration of space that could affect crew health? (content of this gap is now contained in AEH 12, AEH 13, and AEH 14, per IRP Rev E)
(2) AEH10:We need to determine the efficacy of current countermeasures and the need for countermeasure development based on changes in microbial populations and characteristics (per IRP Rev E)
Flight Assignment/Project Notes: ISS

STS-115, STS-116, STS-117. STS-118, STS-120, STS-121

NOTE: End date is 9/30/2011, per HRP information (Ed., 10/20/2011)

NOTE: End date is now 9/30/2009 per CoI (4/08)

Task Description: This study of microorganisms, allergens, and microbial toxins in the spacecraft environment was initiated to ensure the health, safety, and performance of crewmembers during flight. As all previous methods evaluating spacecraft ecology utilized culture-based methodology, this study focuses on techniques that can identify most of the previously omitted microorganisms, such as the pathogen Legionella pneumophila, the etiological agent of Legionnaires’ disease. Likewise, culturable bacteria and fungi have been the only potential allergens studied; the more potent allergens, such as dust mites, have never been analyzed in spacecraft environments. No previous study has targeted microbial toxins. This study utilizes modern molecular biology, advanced microscopy, and immunochemical techniques to examine air, surface, and water samples for bacteria and fungi (total composition and specific pathogens), allergens (e.g., dust mites), and microbial toxins (e.g., endotoxin and volatile organic compounds).

This study of the International Space Station (ISS) will include (1) sampling and analysis of ISS modules immediately prior to launch to develop baseline levels of contamination, (2) direct on-orbit sampling of the ISS and subsequent ground analysis.

This study will reveal previously undetected microorganisms, allergens, and microbial toxins in the spacecraft environment, which we anticipate will result in a more comprehensive health assessment of spacecraft during extended missions.

See also https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1003

Research Impact/Earth Benefits: The results of this study will provide insight into changes that occur in the microbial ecology of semi-closed systems. While this study is designed to predict trends in spacecraft, it can be applied to terrestrial systems such as office buildings and residential homes. The development of specific primers for bacterial enumeration and fungal identification during this study will also advance the ability of ground-based investigators to diagnose the potential sources of microbial contamination and give insight into the causes of "sick building syndrome."

Task Progress & Bibliography Information FY2011 
Task Progress: Throughout the SWAB flight experiment, multiple notable accomplishments were achieved. Sample collection was initiated in August 2006. Air and surface samples, including 9 in-flight sessions and multiple preflight samples, were completed in March 2008. ISS water sample collection from the U. S. water regeneration system called the Water Process Assembly (WPA) began in August 2009 and was completed in March of 2010. The following describes advances in hardware development, the use of molecular technical for spaceflight applications, our understanding of microbial ecology on ISS. Collectively, the SWAB flight experiment provided tremendous benefits toward our approach to infectious disease risk associated with spaceflight.

Hardware development. Prior to the SWAB experiment, sample collection focused on subsequent processing for culture based analysis. For sample collection, the paradigm shifted from preservation of culture viability to preservation of the DNA integrity. Potable water and surface samples relied on DNA fixatives to maintain the DNA. Air sample integrity was achieved by using filtration through a gel membrane (Sartorius MD8 Air Port air sampler). This development effort will be beneficial for future experimental and monitoring efforts, as exemplified when the Sartorius air sampler from the SWAB experiment remained on board ISS at the request of JAXA investigators, who intend to use it in completion of their microbial ecology experiment. Within the design process were multiple side experiments to enable this effort. These side experiments will prove useful in future endeavors. Indeed, the simple determination of average extractable DNA from ISS potable water has already been used to size multiple flight experiments and will be used in the development of next-generation flight hardware.

Molecular techniques and microbial ecology. The development of molecular techniques for the SWAB flight experiment provided advances in the NASA laboratory processes associated with microbial identification. The first accomplishment of the SWAB experiment was the translation of 16S ribosomal DNA sequencing for the identification of bacteria from flight experiment to operational use on spaceflight samples to determine crew health risk. The use of this molecular technique increased bacterial speciation of environmental isolates three fold compared to conventional biochemical-based methodology. This increased efficiency in bacterial speciation provides a better understanding of the microbial ecology and the potential risk to the crew. Negative aspects concerning the use of molecular techniques for spaceflight applications were also identified during the development phase of the SWAB experiment. Sample preparation, data analysis, and potential contamination by genetic material pose tremendous challenges for future use of molecular identification during future exploration missions.

Early analyses for the SWAB experiment focused on the use of molecular-based DNA fingerprinting using repetitive sequence-based polymerase chain reaction (rep-PCR). This technology has allowed contamination tracking of microorganisms between crewmembers and their environment. This study not only demonstrated that ISS has a greater diversity of organisms than originally expected, but also provided insight into possible routes of infection to the crew. Additional ground-based studies used rep-PCR and protein based assays to determine the potential of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) aboard ISS. MRSA has become increasingly common on Earth and poses a treatment problem for infections during flight. The first technique used to evaluate all DNA from the flight samples was Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis (DGGE). Unlike other techniques, DGGE does not depend on microbial growth on culture media, allowing a more comprehensive assessment of the spacecraft interior. The results indicated the presence of microorganisms not commonly isolated from surface and air samples using culture based techniques. While no medically significant organisms were detected using DGGE, results indicated that DGGE was much less sensitive than culture-based methods.

The use of Real Time PCR (RT-PCR) assays was exceptionally beneficial, as this technique proved more sensitive than DGGE. Analyses focused on the sensitive, targeted analysis of DNA for specific viruses including Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV), Cytomegalovirus (CMV), and Epstein Barr Virus (EBV). This technique detected the presence of VZV and EBV DNA in a number of the surface and air samples. An RT-PCR detection assay specifically for the detection of Stachybotrys chartarum and Aspergillus fumigatus was performed on ISS air and surface samples. No ISS samples indicated the presence of either organism. An additional RT-PCR assay investigating the presence of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus was developed using custom designed primers and probes and performed on all of the surface and air DNA samples.

The search for medically significant organisms using non-culture based technology did not reveal a large number of previously unseen medically significant organisms, thus providing a better understanding of the true microbial ecology that is experienced by the crew during flight. This information is leading toward an accurate microbial risk assessment to help set flight requirements to protect the safety, health, and performance of the crew.

Bibliography Type: Description: (Last Updated: 03/24/2020) 

Show Cumulative Bibliography Listing
 
Articles in Peer-reviewed Journals Vesper SJ, Wong W, Kuo CM, Pierson DL. "Mold species in dust from the International Space Station identified and quantified by mold-specific quantitative PCR." Res Microbiol. 2008 Jul-Aug;159(6):432-5. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resmic.2008.06.001 ; PubMed PMID: 18602989 , Jul-2008
Project Title:  A Comprehensive Characterization of Microorganisms and Allergens in Spacecraft Environment Reduce
Fiscal Year: FY 2009 
Division: Human Research 
Research Discipline/Element:
HRP SHFH:Space Human Factors & Habitability (archival in 2017)
Start Date: 07/01/2002  
End Date: 09/30/2011  
Task Last Updated: 12/28/2010 
Download report in PDF pdf
Principal Investigator/Affiliation:   Pierson, Duane L Ph.D. / NASA Johnson Space Center 
Address:  Mail Code SK24 
Building 37, Room 1119A, 2101 NASA Parkway 
Houston , TX 77058 
Email: duane.l.pierson@nasa.gov 
Phone: 281-483-7166  
Congressional District: 22 
Web:  
Organization Type: NASA CENTER 
Organization Name: NASA Johnson Space Center 
Joint Agency:  
Comments:  
Co-Investigator(s)
Affiliation: 
Cruz, Patricia  Harry Reid Center for Environmental Studies 
Ott, C. Mark  National Aeronautics and Space Administration-JSC 
Project Information: Grant/Contract No. None 
Responsible Center: NASA JSC 
Grant Monitor: Woolford, Barbara  
Center Contact: 218-483-3701 
barbara.j.woolford@nasa.gov 
Solicitation / Funding Source: 99-HEDS-03 
Grant/Contract No.: None 
Project Type: FLIGHT 
Flight Program: Shuttle/ISS 
TechPort: No 
No. of Post Docs:
No. of PhD Candidates:
No. of Master's Candidates:
No. of Bachelor's Candidates:
No. of PhD Degrees:  
No. of Master's Degrees:  
No. of Bachelor's Degrees:  
Human Research Program Elements: (1) SHFH:Space Human Factors & Habitability (archival in 2017)
Human Research Program Risks: (1) Microhost:Risk of Adverse Health Effects Due to Host-Microorganism Interactions (IRP Rev F)
Human Research Program Gaps: (1) AEH07:What changes are occurring to microorganisms during human exploration of space that could affect crew health? (content of this gap is now contained in AEH 12, AEH 13, and AEH 14, per IRP Rev E)
(2) AEH10:We need to determine the efficacy of current countermeasures and the need for countermeasure development based on changes in microbial populations and characteristics (per IRP Rev E)
Flight Assignment/Project Notes: ISS

STS-115, STS-116, STS-117. STS-118, STS-120, STS-121

NOTE: End date is 9/30/2011, per HRP information (Ed., 10/20/2011)

NOTE: End date is now 9/30/2009 per CoI (4/08)

Task Description: This study of microorganisms, allergens, and microbial toxins in the spacecraft environment was initiated to ensure the health, safety, and performance of crewmembers during flight. As all previous methods evaluating spacecraft ecology utilized culture-based methodology, this study focuses on techniques that can identify most of the previously omitted microorganisms, such as the pathogen Legionella pneumophila, the etiological agent of Legionnaires’ disease. Likewise, culturable bacteria and fungi have been the only potential allergens studied; the more potent allergens, such as dust mites, have never been analyzed in spacecraft environments. No previous study has targeted microbial toxins. This study utilizes modern molecular biology, advanced microscopy, and immunochemical techniques to examine air, surface, and water samples for bacteria and fungi (total composition and specific pathogens), allergens (e.g., dust mites), and microbial toxins (e.g., endotoxin and volatile organic compounds).

This study of the International Space Station (ISS) will include (1) sampling and analysis of ISS modules immediately prior to launch to develop baseline levels of contamination, (2) direct on-orbit sampling of the ISS and subsequent ground analysis.

This study will reveal previously undetected microorganisms, allergens, and microbial toxins in the spacecraft environment, which we anticipate will result in a more comprehensive health assessment of spacecraft during extended missions.

See also http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/science/experiments/SWAB.html

Research Impact/Earth Benefits: The results of this study will provide insight into changes that occur in the microbial ecology of semi-closed systems. While this study is designed to predict trends in spacecraft, it can be applied to terrestrial systems such as office buildings and residential homes. The development of specific primers for bacterial enumeration and fungal identification during this study will also advance the ability of ground-based investigators to diagnose the potential sources of microbial contamination and give insight into the causes of "sick building syndrome."

Task Progress & Bibliography Information FY2009 
Task Progress: The development of techniques for this flight experiment, operationally named SWAB, has already provided advances in NASA laboratory processes and beneficial information toward human health risk assessment. The first accomplishment of the SWAB experiment was the incorporation of 16S ribosomal DNA sequencing for the identification of bacteria. The use of this molecular technique has increased bacterial speciation of environmental isolates from previous flights three fold compared to conventional methodology. This increased efficiency in bacterial speciation provides a better understanding of the microbial ecology and the potential risk to the crew.

Early accomplishments from this grant also included the development of flight hardware that could acquire samples and preserve them for later molecular analysis months later with no substantial loss of sample quality. Using this hardware, sample collection for SWAB was initiated in August 2006. Air and surface samples, including 9 in-flight sessions and multiple preflight samples, were completed in March 2008. ISS water sample collection from the U. S. water regeneration system called the Water Process Assembly (WPA) began in August 2009 and was completed in March of 2010.

Analyses of air and surface samples have already begun to provide new information. Early analyses focused on the use of molecular-based DNA fingerprinting using repetitive sequence-based polymerase chain reaction (rep-PCR). This technology has allowed contamination tracking of microorganisms between crewmembers and their environment. This study not only demonstrated that ISS has a greater diversity of organisms than originally expected, but also provided insight into possible routes of infection to the crew. Additional ground-based studies used rep-PCR and protein based assays to determine the potential of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) aboard ISS. MRSA has become increasingly common on Earth and pose a treatment problem for infections during flight. The first technique used to evaluate DNA from the flight samples was Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis (DGGE). Unlike other techniques, DGGE does not depend on any microbial growth on culture media allowing a more comprehensive assessment of the spacecraft interior. The results indicate the presence of microorganisms not commonly isolated from surface and air samples using culture based techniques. Fortunately, none of the organisms isolated would be considered medically significant. More recent analyses focused on more sensitive, targeted analysis of the DNA for specific viruses including Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV), Cytomegalovirus (CMV), and Epstein Barr Virus (EBV). Real Time PCR assays detected the presence of the VZV and EBV DNA in a number of the surface and air samples, and investigators are continuing to analyze the data. An assay for PCR detection of MRSA developed using custom designed primers and probes is also currently being performed on all of the surface and air DNA samples. This study continues to provide insight into the true microbial ecology that is experienced by the crew during flight. This information will lead toward an accurate microbial risk assessment to help set flight requirements to protect the safety, health, and performance of the crew.

Bibliography Type: Description: (Last Updated: 03/24/2020) 

Show Cumulative Bibliography Listing
 
Abstracts for Journals and Proceedings Castro VA, Garcia VM, John BJ, Pierson DL, Ott CM. "Surface Water and Air Biocharacterization (SWAB) Flight Experiment." 6th International Space Life Sciences Working Group (ISLSWG) Workshop on Space Microbiology, Rohnert Park, CA, August 2009.

6th International Space Life Sciences Working Group (ISLSWG) Workshop on Space Microbiology, Rohnert Park, CA, August 2009. , Aug-2009

Project Title:  A Comprehensive Characterization of Microorganisms and Allergens in Spacecraft Environment Reduce
Fiscal Year: FY 2008 
Division: Human Research 
Research Discipline/Element:
HRP SHFH:Space Human Factors & Habitability (archival in 2017)
Start Date: 07/01/2002  
End Date: 09/30/2009  
Task Last Updated: 05/12/2008 
Download report in PDF pdf
Principal Investigator/Affiliation:   Pierson, Duane L Ph.D. / NASA Johnson Space Center 
Address:  Mail Code SK24 
Building 37, Room 1119A, 2101 NASA Parkway 
Houston , TX 77058 
Email: duane.l.pierson@nasa.gov 
Phone: 281-483-7166  
Congressional District: 22 
Web:  
Organization Type: NASA CENTER 
Organization Name: NASA Johnson Space Center 
Joint Agency:  
Comments:  
Co-Investigator(s)
Affiliation: 
Cruz, Patricia  Harry Reid Center for Environmental Studies 
Ott, C. Mark  National Aeronautics and Space Administration-JSC 
Project Information: Grant/Contract No. None 
Responsible Center: NASA JSC 
Grant Monitor: Woolford, Barbara  
Center Contact: 218-483-3701 
barbara.j.woolford@nasa.gov 
Solicitation / Funding Source: 99-HEDS-03 
Grant/Contract No.: None 
Project Type: FLIGHT 
Flight Program: Shuttle/ISS 
TechPort: No 
No. of Post Docs:
No. of PhD Candidates:
No. of Master's Candidates:
No. of Bachelor's Candidates:
No. of PhD Degrees:  
No. of Master's Degrees:  
No. of Bachelor's Degrees:  
Human Research Program Elements: (1) SHFH:Space Human Factors & Habitability (archival in 2017)
Human Research Program Risks: (1) Microhost:Risk of Adverse Health Effects Due to Host-Microorganism Interactions (IRP Rev F)
Human Research Program Gaps: (1) AEH07:What changes are occurring to microorganisms during human exploration of space that could affect crew health? (content of this gap is now contained in AEH 12, AEH 13, and AEH 14, per IRP Rev E)
(2) AEH10:We need to determine the efficacy of current countermeasures and the need for countermeasure development based on changes in microbial populations and characteristics (per IRP Rev E)
Flight Assignment/Project Notes: ISS

STS-115, STS-116, STS-117. STS-118, STS-120, STS-121

NOTE: End date is now 9/30/2009 per CoI (4/08)

Task Description: This study of microorganisms, allergens, and microbial toxins in the spacecraft environment was initiated to ensure the health, safety, and performance of crewmembers during flight. As all previous methods evaluating spacecraft ecology utilized culture-based methodology, this study focuses on techniques that can identify most of the previously omitted microorganisms, such as the pathogen Legionella pneumophila, the etiological agent of Legionnaires’ disease. Likewise, culturable bacteria and fungi have been the only potential allergens studied; the more potent allergens, such as dust mites, have never been analyzed in spacecraft environments. No previous study has targeted microbial toxins. This study utilizes modern molecular biology, advanced microscopy, and immunochemical techniques to examine air, surface, and water samples for bacteria and fungi (total composition and specific pathogens), allergens (e.g., dust mites), and microbial toxins (e.g., endotoxin and volatile organic compounds).

This study of the International Space Station (ISS) will include (1) sampling and analysis of ISS modules immediately prior to launch to develop baseline levels of contamination, (2) direct on-orbit sampling of the ISS and subsequent ground analysis.

This study will reveal previously undetected microorganisms, allergens, and microbial toxins in the spacecraft environment, which we anticipate will result in a more comprehensive health assessment of spacecraft during extended missions.

See also http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/science/experiments/SWAB.html

Research Impact/Earth Benefits: The results of this study will provide insight into changes that occur in the microbial ecology of semi-closed systems. While this study is designed to predict trends in spacecraft, it can be applied to terrestrial systems such as office buildings and residential homes. The development of specific primers for bacterial enumeration and fungal identification during this study will also advance the ability of ground-based investigators to diagnose the potential sources of microbial contamination and give insight into the causes of "sick building syndrome."

Task Progress & Bibliography Information FY2008 
Task Progress: The development of techniques for this flight experiment, operationally named SWAB, has already provided advances in NASA laboratory processes and beneficial information toward human health risk assessment. The first accomplishment of the SWAB experiment was the incorporation of 16S ribosomal DNA sequencing for the identification of bacteria. The use of this molecular technique has increased bacterial speciation of environmental isolates from previous flights three fold compared to conventional methodology. This increased efficiency in bacterial speciation provides a better understanding of the microbial ecology and the potential risk to the crew. Early accomplishments from this grant also included the development of flight hardware that could acquire samples and preserve them for later molecular analysis months later with no substantial loss of sample quality. Using this hardware, sample collection for SWAB was initiated in August 2006. Air and surface samples, including 9 in-flight sessions and multiple preflight samples, were completed in March 2008. ISS water sample collection from the U. S. water regeneration system called the Water Process Assembly (WPA) will begin in 2009.

Analyses of air and surface samples have already begun to provide new information. Early analyses focused on the use of molecular-based DNA fingerprinting using repetitive sequence-based polymerase chain reaction (rep-PCR). This technology has allowed contamination tracking of microorganisms between crewmembers and their environment. This study not only demonstrated that ISS has a greater diversity of organisms than originally expected, but also provided insight into possible routes of infection to the crew. Additional ground-based studies used rep-PCR and protein based assays to determine the potential of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) aboard ISS. MRSA has become increasingly common on Earth and pose a treatment problem for infections during flight. While no MRSA have been isolated from ISS to date, the mecA gene product that is responsible for methicillin resistance was isolated in other Staphylococcus species aboard ISS suggesting a potential of MRSA through gene transfer. The first technique used to evaluate DNA from the flight samples was Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis (DGGE). Unlike other techniques, DGGE does not depend on any microbial growth on culture media allowing a more comprehensive assessment of the spacecraft interior. The results indicate the presence of microorganisms not commonly isolated from surface and air samples using culture based techniques. Fortunately, none of the organisms isolated would be considered medically significant. Future analyses will focus on more sensitive, targeted analysis of the DNA for specific pathogens. This study is providing insight into the true microbial ecology that is experienced by the crew during flight. This information will lead toward an accurate microbial risk assessment to help set flight requirements to protect the safety, health, and performance of the crew.

Bibliography Type: Description: (Last Updated: 03/24/2020) 

Show Cumulative Bibliography Listing
 
Abstracts for Journals and Proceedings Ott CM, Castro VA, Garcia VM, John J, Cruz P, Buttner MP, Pierson DL. "A Comprehensive Characterization of Microorganisms and Allergens in Spacecraft Environment." NASA Human Research Program Investigators' Workshop, League City, TX, January 2008.

Abstracts, NASA Human Research Program Investigators' Workshop, League City, TX, January 2008. , Jan-2008

Abstracts for Journals and Proceedings Ott CM, John J, Castro VA, Cruz P, Buttner MP, Pierson DL. "A Comprehensive haracterization of Microorganisms and Allergens in Spacecraft Environment." NASA Human Research Program Investigators' Workshop, League City, TX, January 2007.

Abstracts, NASA Human Research Program Investigators' Workshop, League City, TX, January 2007. , Jan-2007

Abstracts for Journals and Proceedings Ott CM, John J, Castro VA, Cruz P, Buttner MP, Pierson DL. "Characterization of Microorganisms in Spacecraft Environments." 26th International Space Development Conference, Addison, Texas, May 25-28, 2007.

Program and Abstracts, 26th International Space Development Conference, Addison, Texas, May 25-28, 2007. , May-2007

Abstracts for Journals and Proceedings Cruz P, Stetzenbach LD, Klima-Comba AK, Stevens VL, Castro VA, Ott CM, Pierson DL. "Enhanced Detection of Fungi in the Spacecraft Environment." 105th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, Atlanta, GA, June 5-9, 2005.

Program and Abstracts, 105th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, Atlanta, GA, June 5-9, 2005. , Jun-2005

Abstracts for Journals and Proceedings Ott CM, Castro VA, Bassinger VJ, Fontenot SL, Bruce RJ, Cruz P, Stetzenbach LD, Pierson DL. "A Comprehensive Characterization of Microorganisms and Allergens in Spacecraft Environment." NASA Bioastronautics Investigators' Workshop, Galveston, TX, January 2005.

Abstracts, NASA Bioastronautics Investigators' Workshop, Galveston, TX, January 2005. , Jan-2005

Project Title:  A Comprehensive Characterization of Microorganisms and Allergens in Spacecraft Environment Reduce
Fiscal Year: FY 2007 
Division: Human Research 
Research Discipline/Element:
HRP SHFH:Space Human Factors & Habitability (archival in 2017)
Start Date: 07/01/2002  
End Date: 09/30/2009  
Task Last Updated: 04/21/2007 
Download report in PDF pdf
Principal Investigator/Affiliation:   Pierson, Duane L Ph.D. / NASA Johnson Space Center 
Address:  Mail Code SK24 
Building 37, Room 1119A, 2101 NASA Parkway 
Houston , TX 77058 
Email: duane.l.pierson@nasa.gov 
Phone: 281-483-7166  
Congressional District: 22 
Web:  
Organization Type: NASA CENTER 
Organization Name: NASA Johnson Space Center 
Joint Agency:  
Comments:  
Co-Investigator(s)
Affiliation: 
Cruz, Patricia  Harry Reid Center for Environmental Studies 
Ott, C. Mark Mark National Aeronautics and Space Administration-JSC 
Project Information: Grant/Contract No. None 
Responsible Center: NASA JSC 
Grant Monitor: McCollum, Suzanne  
Center Contact: 281 483-7307 
suzanne.g.mccollum@nasa.gov 
Solicitation / Funding Source: 99-HEDS-03 
Grant/Contract No.: None 
Project Type: FLIGHT 
Flight Program: Shuttle/ISS 
TechPort: No 
No. of Post Docs:
No. of PhD Candidates:
No. of Master's Candidates:
No. of Bachelor's Candidates:
No. of PhD Degrees:  
No. of Master's Degrees:  
No. of Bachelor's Degrees:  
Human Research Program Elements: (1) SHFH:Space Human Factors & Habitability (archival in 2017)
Human Research Program Risks: (1) Microhost:Risk of Adverse Health Effects Due to Host-Microorganism Interactions (IRP Rev F)
Human Research Program Gaps: (1) AEH07:What changes are occurring to microorganisms during human exploration of space that could affect crew health? (content of this gap is now contained in AEH 12, AEH 13, and AEH 14, per IRP Rev E)
(2) AEH10:We need to determine the efficacy of current countermeasures and the need for countermeasure development based on changes in microbial populations and characteristics (per IRP Rev E)
Flight Assignment/Project Notes: ISS

STS-115, STS-116, STS-117. STS-118, STS-120, STS-121

NOTE: End date is now 9/30/2009 per CoI (4/08)

Task Description: This study of microorganisms, allergens, and microbial toxins in the spacecraft environment was initiated to ensure the health, safety, and performance of crewmembers during flight. As all previous methods evaluating spacecraft ecology utilized culture-based methodology, this study focuses on techniques that can identify most of the previously omitted microorganisms, such as the pathogen Legionella pneumophila, the etiological agent of Legionnaires’ disease. Likewise, culturable bacteria and fungi have been the only potential allergens studied; the more potent allergens, such as dust mites, have never been analyzed in spacecraft environments. No previous study has targeted microbial toxins. This study utilizes modern molecular biology, advanced microscopy, and immunochemical techniques to examine air, surface, and water samples for bacteria and fungi (total composition and specific pathogens), allergens (e.g., dust mites), and microbial toxins (e.g., endotoxin and volatile organic compounds).

This study of the International Space Station (ISS) will include (1) sampling and analysis of ISS modules immediately prior to launch to develop baseline levels of contamination, (2) direct on-orbit sampling of the ISS and subsequent ground analysis.

This study will reveal previously undetected microorganisms, allergens, and microbial toxins in the spacecraft environment, which we anticipate will result in a more comprehensive health assessment of spacecraft during extended missions.

Research Impact/Earth Benefits: The results of this study will provide insight into changes that occur in the microbial ecology of semi-closed systems. While this study is designed to predict trends in spacecraft, it can be applied to terrestrial systems such as office buildings and residential homes. The development of specific primers for bacterial enumeration and fungal identification during this study will also advance the ability of ground-based investigators to diagnose the potential sources of microbial contamination and give insight into the causes of "sick building syndrome."

Task Progress & Bibliography Information FY2007 
Task Progress: The development of techniques for this flight experiment, operationally named SWAB, has already provided advances in NASA laboratory processes and beneficial information toward human health risk assessment. The first accomplishment of the SWAB experiment was the incorporation of 16S ribosomal DNA sequencing for the identification of bacteria. The use of this molecular technique has increased bacterial speciation of environmental isolates from previous flights three fold compared to conventional methodology. This increased efficiency in bacterial speciation provides a better understanding of the microbial ecology and the potential risk to the crew. Additional SWAB studies focused on the use of molecular-based DNA fingerprinting using repetitive sequence-based polymerase chain reaction (rep-PCR). This technology has allowed contamination tracking of microorganisms between crewmembers and their environment. This study not only demonstrated that ISS has a greater diversity of organisms than originally expected, but also provided insight into possible routes of infection to the crew. Additional ground-based studies used rep-PCR and protein based assays to determine the potential of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) aboard ISS. MRSA has become increasingly common on Earth and pose a treatment problem for infections during flight. While no MRSA have been isolated from ISS to date, the mecA gene product that is responsible for methicillin resistance was isolated in other Staphylococcus species aboard ISS suggesting a potential of MRSA through gene transfer.

Early accomplishments from this grant included the development of flight hardware that could acquire samples and preserve them for later molecular analysis months later with no substantial loss of sample quality. Using these improved sample collection technologies, flight sampling for SWAB was initiated in August 2006 and will continue at least through fall of 2007. Mission samples which have already been collected include those from STS-121 and its logistic module, STS-115, STS-116 and its SpaceHab cargo, and 3 separate ISS in-flight sampling sessions. Future sample collection opportunities include STS-117, STS-118 and its SpaceHab cargo, STS-118, the Node 2 module preflight analysis, the Columbus module preflight analysis, and 5 separate ISS in-flight sampling sessions.

The focus of these flight samples is the collection of DNA for evaluation by Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis (DGGE). Unlike other techniques, DGGE does not depend on any microbial growth on culture media allowing a more comprehensive assessment of the spacecraft interior. Preliminary results from the first few sample sessions confirmed the successful acquisition of microorganisms/DNA using the new air and surface sample collection techniques. Early processing results suggest the techniques will identify organisms that are not commonly identified using media based techniques. Water samples from ISS are yet to be collected as sampling agreements are still being negotiated.

This study should provide insight into the true microbial ecology that is experienced by the crew during flight. This information will lead toward an accurate microbial risk assessment to help set flight requirements to protect the safety, health, and performance of the crew.

Bibliography Type: Description: (Last Updated: 03/24/2020) 

Show Cumulative Bibliography Listing
 
 None in FY 2007
Project Title:  A Comprehensive Characterization of Microorganisms and Allergens in Spacecraft Environment Reduce
Fiscal Year: FY 2006 
Division: Human Research 
Research Discipline/Element:
HRP SHFH:Space Human Factors & Habitability (archival in 2017)
Start Date: 07/01/2002  
End Date: 10/01/2007  
Task Last Updated: 04/23/2007 
Download report in PDF pdf
Principal Investigator/Affiliation:   Pierson, Duane L Ph.D. / NASA Johnson Space Center 
Address:  Mail Code SK24 
Building 37, Room 1119A, 2101 NASA Parkway 
Houston , TX 77058 
Email: duane.l.pierson@nasa.gov 
Phone: 281-483-7166  
Congressional District: 22 
Web:  
Organization Type: NASA CENTER 
Organization Name: NASA Johnson Space Center 
Joint Agency:  
Comments:  
Co-Investigator(s)
Affiliation: 
Stetzenbach, Linda  Harry Reid Center for Environmental Studies 
Ott, C. Mark  EASI/Wyle Laboratories 
Project Information: Grant/Contract No. None 
Responsible Center: NASA JSC 
Grant Monitor: McCollum, Suzanne  
Center Contact: 281 483-7307 
suzanne.g.mccollum@nasa.gov 
Solicitation / Funding Source: 99-HEDS-03 
Grant/Contract No.: None 
Project Type: FLIGHT 
Flight Program: Shuttle/ISS 
TechPort: No 
No. of Post Docs:
No. of PhD Candidates:
No. of Master's Candidates:
No. of Bachelor's Candidates:
No. of PhD Degrees:  
No. of Master's Degrees:  
No. of Bachelor's Degrees:  
Human Research Program Elements: (1) SHFH:Space Human Factors & Habitability (archival in 2017)
Human Research Program Risks: (1) Microhost:Risk of Adverse Health Effects Due to Host-Microorganism Interactions (IRP Rev F)
Human Research Program Gaps: (1) AEH07:What changes are occurring to microorganisms during human exploration of space that could affect crew health? (content of this gap is now contained in AEH 12, AEH 13, and AEH 14, per IRP Rev E)
(2) AEH10:We need to determine the efficacy of current countermeasures and the need for countermeasure development based on changes in microbial populations and characteristics (per IRP Rev E)
Flight Assignment/Project Notes: ISS

STS-115, STS-116, STS-117. STS-118, STS-120, STS-121

Task Description: This study of microorganisms, allergens, and microbial toxins in the spacecraft environment was initiated to ensure the health, safety, and performance of crewmembers during flight. As all previous methods evaluating spacecraft ecology utilized culture-based methodology, this study focuses on techniques that can identify most of the previously omitted microorganisms, such as the pathogens Legionella and Cryptosporidium. Likewise, culturable bacteria and fungi have been the only potential allergens studied; the more potent allergens, such as dust mites, have never been analyzed in spacecraft environments. No previous study has targeted microbial toxins. This study utilizes modern molecular biology, advanced microscopy, and immunochemical techniques to examine air, surface, and water samples for bacteria and fungi (total composition and specific pathogens), pathogenic protozoa (e.g., Cryptosporidium), allergens (e.g., dust mites), and microbial toxins (e.g., endotoxin and volatile organic compounds).

This study of the International Space Station (ISS) will include (1) sampling and analysis of ISS modules immediately prior to launch to develop baseline levels of contamination, (2) direct on-orbit sampling of the ISS and subsequent ground analysis.

This study will reveal previously undetected microorganisms, allergens, and microbial toxins in the spacecraft environment, which we anticipate will result in a more comprehensive health assessment of spacecraft during extended missions.

Research Impact/Earth Benefits: The results of this study will provide insight into changes that occur in the microbial ecology of semi-closed systems. While this study is designed to predict trends in spacecraft, it can be applied to terrestrial systems such as office buildings and residential homes. The development of specific primers for bacterial enumeration and fungal identification during this study will also advance the ability of ground-based investigators to diagnose the potential sources of microbial contamination and give insight into the causes of "sick building syndrome."

Task Progress & Bibliography Information FY2006 
Task Progress: See FY2007 report.

Bibliography Type: Description: (Last Updated: 03/24/2020) 

Show Cumulative Bibliography Listing
 
 None in FY 2006
Project Title:  A Comprehensive Characterization of Microorganisms and Allergens in Spacecraft Environment Reduce
Fiscal Year: FY 2005 
Division: Human Research 
Research Discipline/Element:
HRP SHFH:Space Human Factors & Habitability (archival in 2017)
Start Date: 07/01/2002  
End Date: 10/01/2007  
Task Last Updated: 11/23/2004 
Download report in PDF pdf
Principal Investigator/Affiliation:   Pierson, Duane L Ph.D. / NASA Johnson Space Center 
Address:  Mail Code SK24 
Building 37, Room 1119A, 2101 NASA Parkway 
Houston , TX 77058 
Email: duane.l.pierson@nasa.gov 
Phone: 281-483-7166  
Congressional District: 22 
Web:  
Organization Type: NASA CENTER 
Organization Name: NASA Johnson Space Center 
Joint Agency:  
Comments:  
Co-Investigator(s)
Affiliation: 
Stetzenbach, Linda  Harry Reid Center for Environmental Studies 
Ott, C. Mark Mark EASI/Wyle Laboratories 
Project Information: Grant/Contract No. None 
Responsible Center: NASA JSC 
Grant Monitor: McCollum, Suzanne  
Center Contact: 281 483-7307 
suzanne.g.mccollum@nasa.gov 
Solicitation / Funding Source: 99-HEDS-03 
Grant/Contract No.: None 
Project Type: FLIGHT 
Flight Program:  
TechPort: No 
No. of Post Docs:
No. of PhD Candidates:
No. of Master's Candidates:
No. of Bachelor's Candidates:
No. of PhD Degrees:  
No. of Master's Degrees:  
No. of Bachelor's Degrees:  
Human Research Program Elements: (1) SHFH:Space Human Factors & Habitability (archival in 2017)
Human Research Program Risks: (1) Microhost:Risk of Adverse Health Effects Due to Host-Microorganism Interactions (IRP Rev F)
Human Research Program Gaps: (1) AEH07:What changes are occurring to microorganisms during human exploration of space that could affect crew health? (content of this gap is now contained in AEH 12, AEH 13, and AEH 14, per IRP Rev E)
(2) AEH10:We need to determine the efficacy of current countermeasures and the need for countermeasure development based on changes in microbial populations and characteristics (per IRP Rev E)
Task Description: This study of microorganisms, allergens, and microbial toxins in the spacecraft environment was initiated to ensure the health, safety, and performance of crewmembers during flight. As all previous methods evaluating spacecraft ecology utilized culture-based methodology, this study focuses on techniques that can identify most of the previously omitted microorganisms, such as the pathogens Legionella and Cryptosporidium. Likewise, culturable bacteria and fungi have been the only potential allergens studied; the more potent allergens, such as dust mites, have never been analyzed in spacecraft environments. No previous study has targeted microbial toxins. This study utilizes modern molecular biology, advanced microscopy, and immunochemical techniques to examine air, surface, and water samples for bacteria and fungi (total composition and specific pathogens), pathogenic protozoa (e.g., Cryptosporidium), allergens (e.g., dust mites), and microbial toxins (e.g., endotoxin and volatile organic compounds). This study of the International Space Station (ISS) will include (1) sampling and analysis of ISS modules immediately prior to launch to develop baseline levels of contamination, (2) direct on-orbit sampling of the ISS and subsequent ground analysis. This study will reveal previously undetected microorganisms, allergens, and microbial toxins in the spacecraft environment, which we anticipate will result in a more comprehensive health assessment of spacecraft during extended missions.

Research Impact/Earth Benefits: The results of this study will provide insight into changes that occur in the microbial ecology of semi-closed systems. While this study is designed to predict trends in spacecraft, it can be applied to terrestrial systems such as office buildings and residential homes. The development of specific primers for bacterial enumeration and fungal identification during this study will also advance the ability of ground-based investigators to diagnose the potential sources of microbial contamination and give insight into the causes of "sick building syndrome."

Task Progress & Bibliography Information FY2005 
Task Progress: The focus of the research over the past year has been to prepare for ground sampling and flight sampling. Due to limitations on time and refrigeration, the goal of the sampling and subsequent analysis was to minimize bacterial growth and protein activity after sample collection in order to retain the DNA of all constituents of the sample. A mixture of SDS and EDTA in Tris buffer was developed that had maximum protective capabilities for the DNA. Because of the potential of limited DNA in a given sample, ground studies have also focused on DNA extraction techniques that would be acceptable for bacterial, fungal, and viral analysis. While these studies continue, significant progress has been made.

The research also focused on optimizing the flight hardware for preflight and ISS sample collection. The hardware has passed Critical Design Review with only minimal backup testing required. The engineering expertise of the JSC support team has reconfigured the ASD air sampler for flight use with minimal changes. An association with Charm Sciences has led to the development of a custom subface sampling swab that contains the SDS - EDTA solution for DNA preservation. In addition, specialized water collection bags that are modification of the current ISS water collection bags, have been developed to release the SDS-EDTA solution into the bag without risking contact with the crew. Previous relationships with Russian colleagues at Energia and the Institue of Biomedcal Problems helped to incorporate the International Partners and their ISS components into this study.

The study is on schedule for sample collection starting in 2005.

Bibliography Type: Description: (Last Updated: 03/24/2020) 

Show Cumulative Bibliography Listing
 
Articles in Peer-reviewed Journals Castro VA, Thrasher AN, Healy M, Ott CM, Pierson DL. "Microbial characterization during the early habitation of the International Space Station." Microb Ecol. 2004 Feb;47(2):119-26. PMID: 14749908 , Feb-2004
Articles in Peer-reviewed Journals Ott CM, Bruce RJ, Pierson DL. "Microbial characterization of free floating condensate aboard the Mir space station." Microb Ecol. 2004 Feb;47(2):133-6. PMID: 14569419 , Feb-2004
Presentation Ott, C. M. "Human Immune Function and Microbial Pathogenesis in Human Spaceflight " 10th International Symposium on Microbial Ecology, Cancun, Mexico

Aug-2004

Presentation Fontenot, S. F.; Castro, V. A.; Molina, T. M.; Thrasher, A. N.; Bruce, R. J.; Ott, C. M.; Pierson, D. L. "Microbial Characterization and Comparison of Isolates during the Mir and ISS Missions" 10th International Symposium on Microbial Ecology, Cancun, Mexico

Aug-2004

Presentation Ott, C. M. "Microbial Survey of the International Space Station" Microbial ecology forum at JPL discussing advancements and direction in microbial ecology and risk aboard long-duration spacecraft

Jun-2004

Presentation Pierson, D. L. "Current US Environmental Monitoring on ISS" NASA Fundamental Space Biology Microbial Workshop at KSC

Feb-2004

Presentation Ott, C. M. "Future Directions in Microbial Analysis of the International Space Station" NASA Fundamental Space Biology Microbial Workshop at KSC

Feb-2004

Project Title:  A Comprehensive Characterization of Microorganisms and Allergens in Spacecraft Environment Reduce
Fiscal Year: FY 2004 
Division: Human Research 
Research Discipline/Element:
HRP SHFH:Space Human Factors & Habitability (archival in 2017)
Start Date: 12/01/2001  
End Date: 12/01/2004  
Task Last Updated: 03/31/2006 
Download report in PDF pdf
Principal Investigator/Affiliation:   Pierson, Duane L Ph.D. / NASA Johnson Space Center 
Address:  Mail Code SK24 
Building 37, Room 1119A, 2101 NASA Parkway 
Houston , TX 77058 
Email: duane.l.pierson@nasa.gov 
Phone: 281-483-7166  
Congressional District: 22 
Web:  
Organization Type: NASA CENTER 
Organization Name: NASA Johnson Space Center 
Joint Agency:  
Comments:  
Project Information: Grant/Contract No. None 
Responsible Center: NASA JSC 
Grant Monitor: McCollum, Suzanne  
Center Contact: 281 483-7307 
suzanne.g.mccollum@nasa.gov 
Solicitation / Funding Source: 99-HEDS-03 
Grant/Contract No.: None 
Project Type: FLIGHT 
Flight Program:  
TechPort: No 
No. of Post Docs:
No. of PhD Candidates:
No. of Master's Candidates:
No. of Bachelor's Candidates:
No. of PhD Degrees:  
No. of Master's Degrees:  
No. of Bachelor's Degrees:  
Human Research Program Elements: (1) SHFH:Space Human Factors & Habitability (archival in 2017)
Human Research Program Risks: (1) Microhost:Risk of Adverse Health Effects Due to Host-Microorganism Interactions (IRP Rev F)
Human Research Program Gaps: (1) AEH07:What changes are occurring to microorganisms during human exploration of space that could affect crew health? (content of this gap is now contained in AEH 12, AEH 13, and AEH 14, per IRP Rev E)
(2) AEH10:We need to determine the efficacy of current countermeasures and the need for countermeasure development based on changes in microbial populations and characteristics (per IRP Rev E)
Task Description: The preliminary work for analysis of microorganisms, allergens, and microbial toxins in the spacecraft environment has begun to ensure the health, safety, and performance of crewmembers over extended periods. As all previous methods evaluating spacecraft utilized culture-based methodology, this study will focus on techniques that can identify most of the previously omitted microorganisms, including the pathogens Legionella and Cryptosporidium. Likewise, culturable bacteria and fungi have been the only potential allergens studied; the more potent allergens, such as dust mites, have never been analyzed in spacecraft environments. No attempts to monitor microbial toxins have been made. This study utilizes modern molecular biology, advanced microscopy, and immunochemical techniques to examine air, surface, and water samples for bacteria and fungi (total composition and specific pathogens), pathogenic protozoa (e.g., Cryptosporidium), allergens (e.g., dust mites), and microbial toxins (e.g., endotoxin and volatile organic compounds). This analysis of long duration space craft will included: (1) monitoring the International Space Station (ISS) modules immediately prior to launch to develop baseline levels of contamination, (2) monitoring the space shuttle to evaluate sources of new contamination, and (3) direct on-orbit sampling of the ISS. This analysis will reveal previously undetected microorganisms, allergens, and microbial toxins in the spacecraft environment. We anticipate that the new data will result in a more comprehensive health assessment of spacecraft during extended missions.

Research Impact/Earth Benefits: The results of this study will provide insight into the progression of the microbial ecology and potential problems in terrestrial systems such as office buildings and residential homes. The development of specific primers for bacterial enumeration and fungal identification will advance the ability of ground-based investigators to diagnose the potential sources of microbial volatile organic compounds and give insight into the causes of "sick building syndrome."

Task Progress & Bibliography Information FY2004 
Task Progress: No progress report this period.

Bibliography Type: Description: (Last Updated: 03/24/2020) 

Show Cumulative Bibliography Listing
 
 None in FY 2004