1997-07-01

Gene-Based Detection of Microorganisms in Environmental Samples Using PCR 972424

Contaminating microorganisms pose a serious potential risk to the crew's well being and water system integrity aboard the International Space Station (ISS). We are developing a gene-based microbial monitor that functions by replicating specific segments of DNA as much as 1012 x. Thus a single molecule of DNA can be replicated to detectable levels, and the kinetics of that molecule's accumulation can be used to determine the original concentration of specific microorganisms in a sample. Referred to as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), this enzymatic amplification of specific segments of the DNA or RNA from contaminating microbes offers the promise of rapid, sensitive, quantitative detection and identification of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites. We envision a small instrument capable of assaying an ISS water sample for 48 different microbes in a 24 hour period. We will report on both the developments in the chemistry necessary for the PCR assays to detect microbial contaminants in ISS water, and on progress towards the miniaturization and automation of the instrumentation.

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