Effects of microgravity on the virulence of Listeria monocytogenes, Enterococcus faecalis, Candida albicans, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
To evaluate effects of microgravity on virulence, we studied the ability of four common clinical pathogens--Listeria monocytogenes, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Enterococcus faecalis, and Candida albicans--to kill wild type Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) nematodes at the larval and adult stages. Simultaneous studies were performed utilizing spaceflight, clinorotation in a 2-D clinorotation device, and static ground controls. The feeding rate of worms for killed E. coli was unaffected by spaceflight or clinorotation. Nematodes, microbes, and growth media were separated until exposed to true or modeled microgravity, then mixed and grown for 48 h. Experiments were terminated by paraformaldehyde fixation, and optical density measurements were used to assay residual microorganisms. Spaceflight was associated with reduced virulence for Listeria, Enterococcus, MRSA, and Candida for both larval and adult C. elegans. These are the first data acquired with a direct in vivo assay system in space to demonstrate virulence. Clinorotation reproduced the effects of spaceflight in some, but not all, virulence assays: Candida and Enterococcus were less virulent for larval worms but not adult worms, whereas virulence of MRSA and Listeria were unaffected by clinorotation in tests with both adult and larval worms. We conclude that four common clinical microorganisms are all less virulent in space.
Hammond, TG; Stodieck, L; Birdsall, HH; Becker, JL; Koenig, P; Hammond, JS; Gunter, MA; Allen, PL
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