Bacteria Caught Resorting to Secret Shapeshifting Abilities When in Space

colorful bacteria
Scientists aboard the International Space Station have been dealing with quite a strange dilemma. They discovered that certain kinds of germs put in a lot more fight when in space than back on Earth. The main difference between these two environments is the gravitational condition. It seemed that bacteria were harder to kill in near-weightless conditions. Therefore, researchers started an experiment that ended with an impressive discovery of germs with shapeshifting abilities.

Scientists Didn’t Know Why Germs Behaved Different in Space than on Earth

The more we dream of expanding humanity on other planets in the sky, the more scientists have to learn about bacteria. These microorganisms accompany us wherever we go. However, it turns out that the knowledge people accumulated on Earth will not help astronauts. That’s because these germs behave differently in zero gravity.

A new study was published in Frontiers in Microbiology that revealed the secret shapeshifting abilities that germs can activate when in space for survival purposes. In certain conditions, they can go through mutations that help them with reproduction or protect them against the effects of antibiotics.

The ISS experiment is the first of its kind. It shows exactly how bacteria neutralize treatment against them. This way, scientists can find solutions to countervail this set of abilities as well.

Bacteria Replicated Faster, Activated Shapeshifting Abilities When Confronted with Antibiotics in Space

For their study, researchers at the CU Boulder’s BioServe Space Technologies used cultures of E.coli. They inoculated different amounts of antibiotics to each of the cultures. On Earth, this treatment wouldn’t have delayed killing them. However, bacteria reacted differently when they faced extinction in space.

Under the presence of antibiotics, germs 13-fold increased in numbers. At the same time, the volume of their size decreased by 73% more than the control group that received the exact treatment on Earth. These dramatic changes indicated that this is how bacteria react to antibiotics in order to survive.

Scientists believe that germs resort to similar strategies on Earth to become resistant to antibiotics. However, the process might take a longer while to unfold here. Therefore, this new ISS experiment can help astronauts better protect themselves against germs in space. On top of that, it can offer the key to counter the germs’ abilities to become invulnerable in time to the influence of their nemesis.
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