Microbial Surveillance of Potable Water Sources of the International Space Station 2005-01-2886
To mitigate risk to crew health, the microbial surveillance of the quality of potable water sources of the International Space Station (ISS) has been ongoing since before the arrival of the first permanent crew. These water sources have included stored ground-supplied water, water produced by the Shuttle fuel cells during flight, and ISS humidity condensate that is reclaimed and processed. In-flight monitoring was accomplished using a self-contained filtering system designed to allow bacterial growth and enumeration during flight. Upon return to Earth, microbial isolates were identified using 16S ribosomal gene sequencing. While the predominant isolates were common Gram negative bacteria including Ralstonia eutropha, Methylobacterium fujisawaense, and Sphingomonas paucimobilis, opportunistic pathogens such as Stenotrophomonas maltophilia and Pseudomonas aeruginosa were also isolated. Results of in-flight enumeration have indicated a fluctuation of heterotrophic bacterial counts, some being above the U.S. acceptability limit. Additional in-flight monitoring for the specific detection of coliforms was added in 2004; no coliforms have been detected from any potable water source. Neither the bacterial concentrations nor the identification of the isolates recovered from these samples has suggested a threat to crew health as determined by the methods employed. As the systems age and the analytical technologies evolve, continuation of monitoring may provide better insight into what may be required for the longer missions that will be entailed in further space exploration.