E. coli biofilm adhesion to porous and nonporous surfaces in spaceflight conditions
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Biofilms are communities of microorganisms that have the capacity to facilitate the development of diseases. Previous literature has found that biofilm growth is affected by surface properties: for example, in some cases there is reduced biofilm formation on porous surfaces compared to non-porous surfaces. As humans continue to explore space, understanding the behavior of biofilms in spaceflight conditions will become critical. Research has indicated that bacterial colonies within microgravity environments exhibit atypical behaviors of increased growth and virulency. To help shed some light on these aspects of biofilm growth, our study analyzed the formation and adhesion of E. coli on porous and nonporous 99.99% aluminum on Earth and in space. The experiment was conducted both on Earth and at the International Space Station to determine if the presence of gravity impacts biofilm physiology on these surfaces. E. coli growth on nonporous and porous aluminum were analyzed using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Qualitative analysis reveals a possible size difference between the Earth and space bacteria. However, no significant qualitative differences were observed between gravity and microgravity samples on porous and nonporous aluminum surfaces. We are currently analyzing our samples to corroborate or invalidate the presence of structural differences on biofilms in porous vs. nonporous surfaces and Earth vs. space settings. Further research is required to assess the morphology of individual bacteria on these aforementioned materials and growth settings.