Furnishing spaceship environment: evaluation of bacterial biofilms on different materials used inside International Space Station

Res Microbiol. 2018 Jul-Aug;169(6):289-295. doi: 10.1016/j.resmic.2018.04.001. Epub 2018 May 8.


Performed inside International Space Station (ISS) from 2011 to 2016, VIABLE (eValuatIon And monitoring of microBiofiLms insidE International Space Station) ISS was a long-lasting experiment aimed at evaluating the bacterial contamination on different surface space materials subjected to different pre-treatment, to provide useful information for future space missions. In this work, surfaces samples of the VIABLE ISS experiment were analyzed to determine both the total bacterial load (ATP-metry, qPCR) and the composition of the microbial communities (16S rRNA genes amplicon sequencing). Data obtained showed a low bacterial contamination of all the surfaces, with values in agreement with those allowed inside ISS, and with a taxonomic composition similar to those found in previous studies (Enterobacteriales, Bacillales, Lactobacillales and Actinomycetales). No pre-treatment or material effect were observed on both the bacterial load and the composition of the communities, but for both a slight effect of the position (expose/not expose to air) was observed. In conclusion, under the conditions used for VIABLE ISS, no material or pre-treatment seems to be better than others in terms of quantity and type of bacterial contamination.

Keywords: International space station; Microbiome; Surfaces; VIABLE ISS.

MeSH terms

  • Actinomycetales / genetics
  • Actinomycetales / isolation & purification
  • Bacillales / genetics
  • Bacillales / isolation & purification
  • Bacterial Load*
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Disinfectants / pharmacology*
  • Enterobacteriaceae / genetics
  • Enterobacteriaceae / isolation & purification
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Equipment Contamination / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / pharmacology
  • Lactobacillales / genetics
  • Lactobacillales / isolation & purification
  • Microbiota / drug effects*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Silicon Dioxide / pharmacology
  • Silver / pharmacology
  • Spacecraft / instrumentation*
  • Surface-Active Agents / pharmacology


  • Disinfectants
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Surface-Active Agents
  • Silver
  • Silicon Dioxide
  • Hydrogen Peroxide