Aspergillus fumigatus is an opportunistic pathogen, which can cause disease in immunocompromised humans. Recently, a group of researchers analyzed strains that were isolated from the international space station. Would these strains be any different because they are exposed to the unique conditions of space? To find out, a number of test were carried out with two isolates from space, and two clinical isolates previously identified.
These tests included growth assays, chemical stressors, genome analysis, secondary metabolite analysis, and in vivo virulence assays. The space isolates showed approximately the same level of SNPs in their genome, suggesting they were not evolving more rapidly nor accumulating more mutations. Isolates performed similarly in growth assay and under chemical stresses. However, there were differences in secondary metabolite production between space and earth isolates. Perhaps most interesting was that both space isolates were more virulent in zebra-fish assays compared to the two clinical isolates. However, authors are quick to point out that there is a large variation in virulence found between earth isolates, meaning we can’t draw a conclusion that all space isolates are more virulent than earth isolates.
Ultimately, research into biology in space will be important as we hope to send astronauts up for longer amounts of time. This study is an important look at fungi in space, and provides interesting ideas for further study. This was also the first report of fumigatus in space, which is important for implications on human health on the space station.11.08.16