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A molecular method to assess bioburden embedded within silicon-based resins used on modern spacecraft materials

  • Christina N. Stam (a1), James Bruckner (a1), J. Andy Spry (a1), Kasthuri Venkateswaran (a1) and Myron T. La Duc (a1)...


Current assessments of bioburden embedded in spacecraft materials are based on work performed in the Viking era (1970s), and the ability to culture organisms extracted from such materials. To circumvent the limitations of such approaches, DNA-based techniques were evaluated alongside established culturing techniques to determine the recovery and survival of bacterial spores encapsulated in spacecraft-qualified polymer materials. Varying concentrations of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 spores were completely embedded in silicone epoxy. An organic dimethylacetamide-based solvent was used to digest the epoxy and spore recovery was evaluated via gyrB-targeted qPCR, direct agar plating, most probably number analysis, and microscopy. Although full-strength solvent was shown to inhibit the germination and/or outgrowth of spores, dilution in excess of 100-fold allowed recovery with no significant decrease in cultivability. Similarly, qPCR (quantitative PCR) detection sensitivities as low as ∼103 CFU ml−1 were achieved upon removal of inhibitory substances associated with the epoxy and/or solvent. These detection and enumeration methods show promise for use in assessing the embedded bioburden of spacecraft hardware.


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A molecular method to assess bioburden embedded within silicon-based resins used on modern spacecraft materials

  • Christina N. Stam (a1), James Bruckner (a1), J. Andy Spry (a1), Kasthuri Venkateswaran (a1) and Myron T. La Duc (a1)...


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