Two Arizona State University research teams have partnered with NASA's Johnson Space Center to strengthen the realms of space microbiology.
The combined team has launched a Recombinant Attenuated Salmonella Vaccine or RASV investigation to the International Space Station aboard the STS-135. The resultant samples of this spaceflight cultured RASV strain has returned to Earth on July 21, 2011 for comparison with a second control sample developed on the ground.
The bacteria, Streptococcus pneumonia, cause a number of life-threatening diseases in new-born and the elderly like pneumonia, meningitis, and bacteremia. Annually, it is estimated that this strain of bacteria is responsible for more than 10 million deaths.
The vaccine samples that were carried aboard the STS-135 are a genetically altered variant of Salmonella that carries a protective antigen against Streptococcus pneumonia. The addition of this strain stimulates a protective immune response without causing any disease itself.
"We have the opportunity to utilize spaceflight as a unique research and development platform for novel applications with potential to help fight a globally devastating disease," stated Cheryl Nickerson, one of the research group's team lead.