Scientists have recently sent E. coli, a common bacterial pathogen linked to urinary tract infections and foodborne illnesses, to space in order to examine and better understand microgravity's effects on the bacterial antibiotic resistance.
The E. coli AntiMicrobial Satellite (EcAMSat) mission, which was initially scheduled to be launched on Orbital ATK's Cygnus cargo spacecraft on Saturday along with other science experiments and supplies for the Expedition 53 astronauts onboard ISS, finally took off on November 12, Sunday.
Since microgravity has been shown to weaken human immune response, antibiotic resistance may very well pose a threat to the astronauts, said NASA. That is why the scientists need to better comprehend the properties of microgravity. The mission is aimed at investigating spaceflight effects on bacterial antibiotic resistance and its genetic basis.
It aims to determine "the lowest dose of antibiotic needed to inhibit growth of Escherichia coli, a bacterial pathogen that causes infections in humans and animals," wrote the space agency in a description of the experiment.
"Results from this investigation could contribute to determining appropriate antibiotic dosages to protect astronaut health during long-duration human spaceflight and help us understand how antibiotic effectiveness may change as a function of stress on Earth," NASA said in a statement.