Task SWAB E-049 A Comprehensive Characterization of Microorganisms and Allergens in Spacecraft Environment (Completed)
Last Published:  07/29/22 01:33:24 PM (Central)
Short Title: SWAB
Responsible HRP Element: Space Human Factors and Habitability
Collaborating Org(s):
Funding Status: Completed - Task completed and produced a deliverable
Procurement Mechanism(s):
  1. Comprehensively evaluate microbes on board the space station, including pathogens (organisms that may cause disease).
  2. Track changes in the microbial community as spacecraft visit the station and new station modules are added.

All aims of the task have been achieved.  Experimental findings were incorporated into the SWAB Flight Experiment Final Report that was delivered to SHFH.  Key findings:

  • Generally, advanced molecular techniques were able to reveal a few organisms not recovered using culture-based methods; however, there is no indication that current monitoring is “missing” any medically significant bacteria or fungi.
  • Molecular techniques have tremendous potential for microbial monitoring, however, sample preparation and data analysis present challenges for spaceflight hardware.
  • Analytical results indicate that some molecular techniques, such as denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), can be much less sensitive than culture-based methods.
  • More sensitive molecular techniques, such as quantitative polymerase chain reaction (QPCR), were able to identify viral DNA from ISS environments, suggesting potential transfer of the organism between crewmembers.