IIT Madras and NASA researchers study multidrug resistant pathogens

IIT Madras and NASA researchers are studying multi-drug resistant pathogens on the international space stations.

This can have key applications for astronauts health as well on earth.

IIT MadrasResearchers from NASA were from its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The researchers conducted a comprehensive study to understand the genomic, functional, and metabolic enhancements observed in multidrug-resistant pathogens with a particular focus on Enterobacter bugandensis, a prevalent nosocomial pathogen found on surfaces within the ISS, say sources from IIT Madras.

Altered Immune Conditions

Astronauts operating in altered immune conditions with limited access to traditional medical facilities face unique health challenges during space missions, say sources from IIT Madras.

Understanding the microbial landscape aboard the ISS is paramount for assessing the impact of these microorganisms on astronaut well-being.


The current study emphasises the critical need to investigate the pathogenic potential of microorganisms in space environments to safeguard astronaut health and mitigate the risks associated with opportunistic pathogens.

Collaborative Efforts of IIT Madras and NASA

The collaborative efforts between IIT Madras and NASA’s JPL underscore the importance of international partnerships in advancing scientific knowledge and addressing the challenges of space exploration.

Published in the esteemed journal Microbiome (DOI – https://doi.org/10.1186/s40168-024-01777-1). This research represents a significant advancement in understanding microbial dynamics in confined environments.

A video explaining this research can be viewed through the following link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92ulcKPo4AY

IIT MadrasHold Promise

The findings hold promise for applications in controlled settings on Earth, including hospital intensive care units and surgical theatres, where multidrug-resistant pathogens pose significant challenges to patient care.

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The Research was undertaken by Prof. Karthik Raman, Department of Data Science and AI, Wadhwani School of Data Science and AI (WSAI), Dr. Kasthuri Venkateswaran, Senior Research Scientist at JPL, NASA, Mr. Pratyay Sengupta, Mr. Shobhan Karthick MS, Research Scholars, IIT Madras and Mr. Nitin Kumar Singh from JPL, NASA. This work was funded by the Science and Engineering Research Board, and Prime Minister’s Research Fellowship from the Ministry of Education to Mr. Pratyay Sengupta.


Prof. Karthik Raman spoke about the need for such research. He said microbes continue to puzzle us by growing in the most challenging conditions – studies such as these serve to help us unravel the complex web of interactions underlying microbial growth and survival in such unique environments.

Broader Implications

Dr. Kasthuri Venkateswaran, Senior Research Scientist at JPL, NASA spoke about broader implications of the research.

He said the research uncovers the microbial community interactions of how certain benign microorganisms help to adapt and survive opportunistic human pathogen, E. bugandensis, in the unfavourable conditions of the International Space Station.

The knowledge gained from this study would shed light on microbial behaviour, adaptation, and evolution in extreme, isolated environments that allow in designing novel countermeasure strategies to eradicate opportunistic pathogens, thus protecting the health of astronauts, he said.


The research team identified detailed genomic features and potential antimicrobial resistance mechanisms within E. bugandensis strains isolated from various locations within the ISS, say IIT Madras researchers.

The study elucidated the evolution of key genes and their responses to the stressors inherent to the space environment.

Leveraging advanced systems biology approaches, the researchers uncovered a complex web of interactions between E. bugandensis and other microorganisms aboard the ISS, highlighting both parasitic and symbiotic relationships that influence microbial growth dynamics, say sources from IIT Madras.

By mapping the prevalence and distribution of E. bugandensis over time, the study provides valuable insights into its persistence, succession, and potential colonization patterns in space.

IIT MadrasKey Real World Applications

Some of the Key Real-World Applications of this research include

⮚ Understanding the genomic adaptations of multidrug-resistant E. bugandensis can aid in developing targeted antimicrobial treatments

⮚ Insights into the persistence and succession patterns of E. bugandensis in space can inform strategies for managing microbial contamination in closed environments like spacecraft and hospitals

⮚ The methodology used in this study, integrating genomics, metagenomics, and metabolic modelling, can be applied to study microbial dynamics in other extreme environments, potentially improving our understanding of microbial ecology and adaptation


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S Vishnu Sharmaa now works with collegechalo.com in the news team. His work involves writing articles related to the education... (Full bio)

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