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Scientists discover three new strains of bacteria aboard the ISS

Scientists discovered three new strains of bacteria on the International Space Station, according to a study published on Monday.

Four strains belonging to the family of Methylobacteriaceae were isolated from different locations on the International Space Station (ISS) across two consecutive flights,” the study published in the journal frontiers in Microbiology.

Kasthuri Venkateswaran and Nitin Kumar Singh, two of the paper’s authors from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explained in a press release that the bacteria formed on plants that astronauts were growing in space.

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"To grow plants in extreme places where resources are minimal, isolation of novel microbes that help to promote plant growth under stressful conditions is essential," the two said.

The discovery of these new bacteria in the plants could lead to breakthroughs in plant growth and space farming.

This will further aid in the identification of genetic determinants that might potentially be responsible for promoting plant growth under microgravity conditions and contribute to the development of self-sustainable plant crops for long-term space missions in future,” the study says.

Three of the bacteria strains were found on surfaces of the ISS back in 2015 and 2016 and the fourth was collected in 2011.

Needless to say, the ISS is a cleanly-maintained extreme environment. Crew safety is the number 1 priority and hence understanding human/plant pathogens are important, but beneficial microbes like this novel Methylobacterium ajmalii are also needed,” the scientists said.