ISS is basically a bacteria-filled locker room, study finds

At least in terms of germs, they're the same, according to NASA scientists cataloguing microbes on the space station.

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Scientists found that the same type of bacteria and fungi in gyms and offices also exist in the ISS.  

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Germs that exist in gyms apparently also hang out on the International Space Station.

A diverse population of bacteria and fungi -- similar to the ones found in hospitals, gyms and offices on Earth -- has been found on surfaces inside the ISS, according to research published Monday in the journal Microbiome.  

As part of a NASA initiative, samples of bacteria and fungi were collected from eight locations throughout the ISS during three flight missions over a period of 14 months. They were then analyzed back on Earth by a group of scientists, including several with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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"In light of an upcoming new era of human expansion in the universe, such as future space travel to Mars, the microbiome of the closed space environment needs to be examined thoroughly to identify the types of microorganisms that can accumulate in this unique environment, how long they persist and survive, and their impact on human health and spacecraft infrastructure," the researchers wrote.

Most of the organisms found on the ISS were ones associated with humans, according to the study. The most predominant bacteria in the US module were in the Staphylococcaceae and Enterobacteriaceae families, which are abundant on Earth in hospitals, offices and fitness centers, according to the research.

The researchers said it's unclear whether those bacteria could cause disease onboard the ISS, because that depends both on the health of each astronaut and on how these organisms function in a space environment. 

This isn't the first time bacteria have been found at the ISS. Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov in 2017 said he found bacteria on the ISS' exterior surface. It was unclear how the bacteria got there: Some people argued that they were from outer space and some believed they were unknown microbes from the upper atmosphere. 

First published April 8 at 2:32 p.m. PT.
Update April 9 at 6:28 a.m. PT: Adds more background information on space germs. 

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