How an astronaut’s microbiome changes in space

A mission to space doesn’t come without risks; astronauts are often exposed to radiation, they eat a diet composing of freeze-dried food and are required to undertake daily exercise to stop muscle degeneration. A lesser-known impact is the alteration of the astronaut’s microbiome.

A study has investigated the impact of long-term space exploration on the microbiome of nine astronauts that spent six to twelve months in the International Space Station (ISS)[1].

The study concluded that the microbial communities of the skin, as well as the gastrointestinal tract, nose and tongue all changed during the space mission.

Interestingly, alterations in the skin microbiome related to skin irritation and infections, something that has been previously reported by other astronauts. A previous study illustrated this also, demonstrating the connection between a persistent skin rash and immune system dysregulation onboard the ISS.[2]

astronaut's microbiome

[1] Scientific Reports – Study of the impact of long-duration space missions at the International Space Station on the astronaut microbiome

[2] The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice – A case of persistent skin rash and rhinitis with immune system dysregulation onboard the International Space Station

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