Identification and Characterization of Bacterial Isolates from the Mir Space Station

Publication Title

Microbiological Research

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16S rRNA gene sequencing, bacterial identification, Mir space station




Twenty bacterial isolates (supplied by NASA) from the Mir space station water system were identified using Vitek GNI+ test card, API 20NE, and 16S rRNA gene sequencing. The identification of only one isolate agreed among the three techniques. The utility of the API 20NE and Vitek GNI+ test card approaches for identifying these isolates was limited. Although 16S rRNA gene sequencing effectively identified many of the bacteria to the genus level, 74% of the isolates could not be identified to the species level. Isolates were also characterized based on motility and hydrophobicity. About 40% of the isolates were motile and four isolates were hydrophobic, suggesting that many of the bacteria have the potential to colonize surfaces and form biofilms. These findings demonstrate the difficulties in identifying bacteria from some environments to the species level and have implications for determining the risks of contamination in water systems of space shuttles and stations.