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Scientists of the DLR-Institute of Aerospace Medicine testing antimicrobial materials inside the Concordia Antarctic research station




Concordia Antarctic Research Station

Human exploration of extreme and isolated hostile environments (Arctic and Antarctic regions, space, deep sea, high altitude mountain regions, deserts) often requires special confined, small-volume habitats to protect and house the crew. Inhabitants of such confinements experience unique stressors, which could directly affect their health (e.g. stress, fatigue, indisposition), their performance, and thus the fulfillment of tasks. One of the major challenges is the protection of human subjects (research crew, astronauts) from biological contaminants, which could cause infections and illnesses. Confined habitats have restrictions on waste disposal, water and fresh air supply, as well as personal hygiene, and inevitably generate a particular community of microorganisms (mainly microbial biofilms) within

A set of different materials, textiles and components with known antimicrobial characteristics on-board the Concordia station.
the habitat. In the ESA project ANTIBACS („Antimicrobial materials, surfaces and textiles on-board the Concordia Antarctic Research Station as a test-bed approach for the reduction of the microbial contamination on future human space missions“, ESA project No. AO-11-Concordia-022, principal investigator is Dr. Ralf Moeller) the functionality of antimicrobial coating, additives, surfaces and textiles will be characterized in order to prevent on-board environmental and human-associated microbial contamination and/or to reduce the microbial burden. One unique opportunity to monitor the microbial, fungal, archaeal and viral diversity in a confined habitat is provided by the Concordia Antarctic Research Station. The Concordia research station in Antarctica is run by the French Polar Institute and the Italian Antarctic Programme, while ESA adds its space expertise in medical monitoring, testing life-support technologies and psychological training of crews staying under extreme conditions over the long winter. A set of different materials, textiles and components with known antimicrobial characteristics, either of organic or inorganic origin, is currently exposed on-board the Concordia station in different places for the time period of the Antarctic winter (February to November). Emphasis will be laid on the characterization of the antimicrobial effect and the assessment of the tested antimicrobial materials. With the data generated here, constructive adjustments, improvements or modifications of the existing antimicrobial materials and the potential new development, design and testing of antimicrobial components for future (human) space mission can be achieved.

Insights in the daily life inside and around the Concordia Antarctic Research Station can be found under: > http://blogs.esa.int/concordia <


 


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