Gut bacteria could prevent bone loss and muscle breakdown in astronauts on trips to Mars

Adam Smith
Tuesday 08 September 2020 17:22 BST
(AFP via Getty Images)

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Louise Thomas

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Microbes in astronauts’ stomachs could be the secret to keeping them safe when on voyages to Mars, scientists suggest.

Manipulating space-farers’ gut microbiome may help them maintain health on spaceships, according to new research published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology,.

It was found that bacteria associated with intestinal inflammation rose during space travel.  

The reduced gravity in space can also result in muscle breakdown, reduced bone mass, and nausea.  

As such, ensuring an astronauts’ diet counteracts these negative effects is vital.

"The literature suggests that nutritional countermeasures based on prebiotics and probiotics hold great promise to protect space travellers," said Professor Silvia Turroni of the University of Bologna.

It has been suggested that meals with large quantities of fibre can kickstart astronauts’ metabolism.

Microbial supplements could also be used, such as bacteria which can boost the immune system or create vitamins to grow bones.

"The well-being of the gut microbiome of space travellers should be among the primary goals of long-duration exploratory missions," said Professor Martina Heer of the University of Bonn.  

"To ensure the success of the mission, we must not overlook the myriad of microorganisms that reside in our gastrointestinal tract and make sure they are in balance."

The route to Mars may take unusual routes. Some researchers believe that astronauts should stop off at Venus before heading to the Red planet, as they could practice deep space human operations or return to Earth sooner if something went wrong.

If humans are to build a self-sustaining civilisation on the Mars, it has suggested that at least 110 people will need to travel there.

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