Evaluation of the Airborne Bacterial Population in the Periodically Confined Antarctic Base Concordia
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The environmental airborne bacterial population in relation to human confinement was investigated over a period of 1 year in the Concordia Research Station, which is located on the Eastern Antarctic plateau. The unique location of the station makes it suitable for different research domains such as glaciology, atmospheric sciences, astronomy, etc. Furthermore, it is used as a test bed for long-duration spaceflights to study the physiologic and psychological adaptation to isolated environments. A total of 96 samples were collected at eight different locations in the station at regular intervals. The airborne bacterial contamination was for 90% of the samples lower than 10.0 × 102 colony-forming units per cubic meter of air (CFU/m3) and the total bacterial contamination increased over time during confinement but diminished after re-opening of the base. Viable airborne bacteria with different morphology were identified by biochemical analyses. The predominant microflora was identified as Staphylococcus sp. (24.9% of total) and Bacillus sp. (11.6% of total) and was associated with human activity, but also environmental species such as Sphingomonas paucimobilis (belonging to the α-Proteobacteria) could establish themselves in the airborne population. A few opportunistic pathogens (6%) were also identified.
KeywordsInternational Space Station Sphingomonas Crew Member Airborne Bacterium Closed Period
This study was financially supported by the European Space Agency (ESA-PRODEX) and the Belgian Science Policy (Belspo) through the MISSEX project (PRODEX agreements no. C90254). We are grateful to the MISSEX partners and to C. Lasseur, C. Paillé, and B. Lamaze from ESTEC/ESA for their constant support and advice; and to IPEV and PNRA for logistics.
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