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Mutant Bacteria Are Likely to Threaten Future Space Travelers

When humans eventually travel to Mars and beyond, they'll have plenty to worry about along with the discomforts of eating freeze-dried food and drinking their own urine. A new report says they will probably be really sick, to boot -- from flare-ups of E. coli, chicken pox or staph infections.

A host of microscopic stowaways could make interplanetary voyagers sick, especially because human immune systems are compromised in space, and because bacteria seem to thrive in micro- or zero-gravity environments.

E. coli, staphylococcus, and salmonella are among common bacteria that grow faster in space than on Earth, according to a report published in the Nov. 1 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. Latent viruses are more likely to reawaken in space, too, maybe due to the stress of space travel. Whatever the reason, they could all spell misery and even danger for astronauts traveling to the moon or Mars.
 
 

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