Skip to page content Mission Information


Characterization of Microbial Transfer Among Crewmembers During Space Flight (DSO 491)
Principal Investigator
Research Area:
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Homo sapiens Species: Human

Increased risk of infections among crewmembers during space flight results from working and living in a crowded, closed environment with limited capabilities for air revitalization and disinfection. Alterations in the immune response during space flight as well as stress, aerosols, and altered fluid distribution within the body could increase the incidence of infectious disease during long-duration space missions. Staphyloccus aureus has been the target of many epidemiological studies because of its known virulence potential and as a prominent cause of nosocomial infections. This bacterium has also been of interest to NASA's human space flight program. Staphyloccus aureus was chosen as the subject for this study because it is frequently isolated from both crewmembers and the spacecraft environment and has been examined in previous space flight programs, providing a benchmark for the current missions as well as the technology employed.

Studies initially conducted during the Apollo Program and Apollo-Soyuz Test Project using bacteriophage typing patterns reported that the transfer of Staphyloccus aureus among crewmembers was a common occurrence. A phage typing experiment was also conducted during the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project to study microbial exchange among the U.S. and Russian crewmembers. Further phage typing studies were conducted during the Skylab program, which also included data regarding dissemination of the organism through the spacecraft environment. Data from the Skylab 3 mission suggested two incidences of intercrew transfer.

++ -- View more

Pierson DL, Chidambaram M, Heath JD, Mallary L, Mishra SK, et al. Epidemiology of Staphylococcus aureus during space flight. FEMS Immunology Medical Microbiology. 1996 December 31;16(3-4):273-81. []


Data Information
Data Availability
Archive is complete. All data sets are on the Web site.
Data Sets + View data.

Microbial transmission
Staphylococcus aureus

Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
STS-63 02/03/1995 02/11/1995 8 days
STS-65 07/08/1994 07/23/1994 15 days
STS-68 09/30/1994 10/11/1994 11 days
STS-69 09/07/1995 09/18/1995 11 days
STS-70 07/13/1995 07/22/1995 9 days
STS-72 01/11/1996 01/20/1996 9 days
STS-73 10/20/1995 11/05/1995 16 days
STS-75 02/22/1996 03/09/1996 16 days
STS-77 05/19/1996 05/29/1996 10 days
STS-78 06/20/1996 07/07/1996 17 days

Additional Information
Managing NASA Center
Johnson Space Center (JSC)
Responsible NASA Representative
Johnson Space Center LSDA Office
Project Manager: Jessica Keune
Institutional Support
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)