Molds (fungi) are one of the oldest, deadliest and most adaptable organisms on planet earth.

The facts are that mold will grow anywhere. It grows on plants, animals, humans, wood, stone, steel and as this new study proves, even on the International Space Station (ISS) in outer space. In fact, mold may mutate and grow more lethal in space than here on earth.

The  American Society for Microbiology published the new research paper to October to examine the traits and diversity of fungal isolates to gain a better understanding of how fungi may adapt to different environments and how this may affect interactions with humans in a closed habitat.

Since the mold known as Aspergillus fumigatus is the most significant opportunistic mold pathogen of humans, it is likely to be an issue on space vessels.I have written about this deadly mold in my article, “Aspergillus: One of the most common and deadly organisms in existence,” where I explain that it has been estimated by scientists, that there are 600,000 deaths annually worldwide as result of this fungus.

Some of the most dangerous molds of this group are Aspergillus fumigatus and Aspergillus terreus which have been identified by scientists as the most dangerous pathogens in humans.(1) A pathogen is an agent that causes infection or disease. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology says that the most common allergy and asthma causing molds include Alternaria, AspergillusCladosporium and Penicillium.

The researchers studied the characterization of two independent Aspergillus fumigatus strains isolated from the International Space Station. The two isolates, ISSFT-021 and IF1SW-F4, collected from the ISS and a comparison to mold grown in a clinical setting. After conducting a virulence assessment in a neutrophil-deficient larval zebrafish model of invasive aspergillosis revealed that both molds grown in space were significantly more lethal than the clinically grown mold.

One of the lead scientists in the study, Benjamin P. Knox, of the Wisconsin, Department of Medical Microbiology had said;
“While we observed virulence differences, we speculate that it is completely within the variation that one would observe with terrestrial isolates. There is an emerging body of literature showing a terrific phenotypic variation in A. fumigatus.”

“For people wanting to draft policy, either sampling or cleaning regimes aboard these space vessels, the study shows that if a fungus is identified as A. fumigatus, any and all isolates represent potential pathogens and should be treated as such,” said Mr. Knox.


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