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Microb Ecol. 2013 Apr;65(3):638-51. doi: 10.1007/s00248-013-0193-4. Epub 2013 Feb 15.

Comparison of antibiotic resistance, biofilm formation and conjugative transfer of Staphylococcus and Enterococcus isolates from International Space Station and Antarctic Research Station Concordia.

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Department of Environmental Microbiology/Genetics, Technical University, Berlin, Germany.


The International Space Station (ISS) and the Antarctic Research Station Concordia are confined and isolated habitats in extreme and hostile environments. The human and habitat microflora can alter due to the special environmental conditions resulting in microbial contamination and health risk for the crew. In this study, 29 isolates from the ISS and 55 from the Antarctic Research Station Concordia belonging to the genera Staphylococcus and Enterococcus were investigated. Resistance to one or more antibiotics was detected in 75.8 % of the ISS and in 43.6 % of the Concordia strains. The corresponding resistance genes were identified by polymerase chain reaction in 86 % of the resistant ISS strains and in 18.2 % of the resistant Concordia strains. Plasmids are present in 86.2 % of the ISS and in 78.2 % of the Concordia strains. Eight Enterococcus faecalis strains (ISS) harbor plasmids of about 130 kb. Relaxase and/or transfer genes encoded on plasmids from gram-positive bacteria like pIP501, pRE25, pSK41, pGO1 and pT181 were detected in 86.2 % of the ISS and in 52.7 % of the Concordia strains. Most pSK41-homologous transfer genes were detected in ISS isolates belonging to coagulase-negative staphylococci. We demonstrated through mating experiments that Staphylococcus haemolyticus F2 (ISS) and the Concordia strain Staphylococcus hominis subsp. hominis G2 can transfer resistance genes to E. faecalis and Staphylococcus aureus, respectively. Biofilm formation was observed in 83 % of the ISS and in 92.7 % of the Concordia strains. In conclusion, the ISS isolates were shown to encode more resistance genes and possess a higher gene transfer capacity due to the presence of three vir signature genes, virB1, virB4 and virD4 than the Concordia isolates.

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