May 6, 2009: Salmonella, what’s gotten into you?
Researchers have been asking themselves this question ever since Salmonella bacteria grown on board the space shuttle returned to Earth 3 to 7 times more virulent than Salmonella grown on the ground under otherwise identical conditions. Figuring out why could help safeguard astronauts from disease and lead to new treatments for food poisoning and other common ailments on Earth.
see captionNew research by Cheryl Nickerson (Arizona State University) and colleagues explains not only why Salmonella gets “revved up” in space, but also how to calm it down again.
“We think space travel tricks Salmonella into behaving as if it is in the human gut,” Nickerson says. “It’s a mechanical phenomenon having to do with ‘fluid shear.'”