Using Spaceflight to Advance Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Vaccines

Principal Investigator:  Timothy Hammond M.B.,B.S.

Durham VA Medical Center/Duke University

Several lines of evidence suggest that spaceflight is a unique environment to study mucosal infection: during spaceflight some bacteria are more virulent, host mucosal defenses are down regulated, and immune responses such as white cell migration are diminished.  We have demonstrated that exposure of small model organisms such as the nematode C elegans to bacteria during spaceflight allow direct analysis of host pathogen interactions in real time during spaceflight. Preliminary data using enteropathogenic Salmonella species compared nematode killing during space flight to both static ground based cultures and suspension culture models such as clinostats which mimic some of the properties of space flight. This demonstrated the uniqueness of space for immunology applications as the increased ability of Salmonella to kill nematodes in space was qualitatively opposite in ground based clinostats. Application of nematodes with specific gene deletions indentified some of the molecular mediators responsible for these changes.  This application focuses on Staphylococcus aureus, a common clinical pathogen which has become the commonest US infection from kindergarten skin lesions to intensive care unit medicine. Study of Staphylococcus aureus interactions with nematodes in space will allow understanding of the molecular mediators of bacterial invasion, and may identify protective strategies from therapeutics to vaccine production.

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