Jan 23, 2024

Space-Grown Lettuce Faces Food Safety Concerns on the ISS

Posted by in categories: food, space

“We need to be prepared for and reduce risks in space for those living now on the International Space Station and for those who might live there in the future,” said Dr. Kali Kniel. “It is important to better understand how bacterial pathogens react to microgravity in order to develop appropriate mitigation strategies.”

As human spaceflight has advanced, so has the food that astronauts eat during their respective missions. This has evolved from dehydrated food during the Apollo missions to regular food that astronauts can get shipped from Earth. But an astronaut’s diet expanded thanks to a 2020 study published in Frontiers in Plant Science that evaluated space-grown lettuce in the International Space Station (ISS) with promising results. While that study exhibited “negative results” for human pathogens, a recent study published in Scientific Reports has demonstrated that human pathogens could infect space-grown lettuce, specifically leafy green vegetables, that could lead to food safety concerns during spaceflight from the microgravity conditions where the plants are grown.

For the study, the researchers simulated microgravity conditions by rotating plants at 2 rotations per minute (RPM), 4 RPM, and unrotated and with and without S. enterica Typhimurium, which is a known salmonella bacterium, and later with Bacillus subtilis strain UD1022. The team analyzed changes in how much each bacteria invaded the plant’s pores, which function as the primary mechanism during photosynthesis for discharging oxygen and taking in carbon dioxide.

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