Why it’s importantPreventing microbial contamination of our celestial neighbors is essential from both an ethical and scientific standpoint. For starters, ecosystems are very susceptible to change. The inadvertent introduction of microorganisms into a new environment could have disastrous consequences if they were to thrive and surpass any existing life. From a scientific position, if the planet was currently lifeless, the unintentional inoculation of extraterrestrial samples would lead to inaccurate conclusions about the presence of organic lifeforms.
Evolution complicates cleanlinessTo help keep spacecrafts clean before they are sent into space, clean rooms are used. These specialized rooms are designed to be low-nutrient environments that have extensive filtration systems, are carefully controlled for contamination, and are frequently cleaned. Further, all personnel are required to undergo numerous decontamination processes before entering.
While these practices are able to keep clean rooms exceptionally clean, they can also give rise to the selection of new microbial species that are able to withstand significant stressors such as chemical disinfectants, lack of nutrients, and ultraviolet treatment. This is problematic as the ability of these highly resistant bugs to survive under such extreme conditions may also enable them to survive on spacecrafts.
How we can helpWhen new species are collected from clean rooms, it is important to keep them safe for future studies. Because these microorganisms can survive under such stressful conditions, they are valuable research subjects for understanding which species could potentially survive interplanetary travel and for developing new disinfection methods for clean rooms.
As a recognized culture collection in the United States, ATCC has extensive expertise in the authentication, storage, maintenance, and global distribution of biological samples. By depositing these novel strains in our collection, researchers are not only assured that the materials will be kept safe for the global life science community but also satisfy the requirements stipulated by the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology (IJSEM) and International Committee on Systematics of Prokaryotes (ICSP) for proposed type strains.
In fact, ATCC recently acquired three new type strains that were isolated from the Mars Exploration Rover Spacecraft clean room from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Our collection also includes three type strains collected from the vehicle assembly building at Cape Canaveral in Florida where the Viking spacecraft was assembled. Check out these new bacterial species and get more details about our type strain deposit service to learn how we can keep your type strains safe.
Cara Wilder, PhD, ELS
Senior Scientific Writer, ATCC
Dr. Wilder is a Senior Scientific Writer at ATCC. She has a PhD in Microbiology with background experience working with several pathogenic bacterial species in both in vitro and in vivo environments. Dr. Wilder is the author of numerous publications on varying topics of scientific relevance, including quality control, microbial contamination, assay development, proficiency testing, and multidrug resistance.
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