Atlantis astronauts happily shared the same air and small spaces, with a multitude of surfaces, on space shuttle mission 104 in 2001. They are, from the left, Charles O. Hobaugh, pilot; Janet L. Kavandi, flight engineer and mission specialist; and Steven W. Lindsey, commander.
Credit: NASA

Helping Astronauts Battle Space Germs

Source: Brown University press release

The cabin of a spacecraft halfway to Mars would be the least convenient place — one cannot say “on earth” — for a Salmonella or Pneumococcus outbreak, but a wide-ranging new paper suggests that microgravity and prolonged space flight could give unique advantages to germs. What’s a space agency to do? Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital infectious disease expert Dr. Leonard Mermel offers several ideas.

And no, they are not to add more Vitamin C to the Tang, or to give each crew member a bottle of Purell. It’s a lot more complicated than that.

“I’ve been involved for two decades with trying to prevent infections in the intensive care unit and general hospital settings and I’ve been involved with national and international guidelines, but there are a lot of constraints in space I had never thought of before,” said Mermel, who began investigating the infectious disease implications of space flight when he was invited to speak at a NASA-Johnson Space Center symposium in April 2011.

Read more: Helping Astronauts Battle Space Germs — Astrobiology Magazine.

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