Space shuttle may have planted seed for MRSA, salmonella vaccines

There's more to celebrate than the bittersweet end of an era. There may be new hope of vaccines for both salmonella and MRSA.
Written by Denise Amrich, Contributor

Early this morning my husband, David (who was up early watching old episodes of one of the many Star Trek series on his Netflix instant queue) was startled by a strange noise that seemed to coincide (although not perfectly) with an on-screen space battle. It was a loud, double booming pop that he doubted could be coming from our surround sound system -- it's pretty good, but it's not that good.

It turns out that it was the same noise that's made us jump a number of times in the last few years, since we moved to Florida, an hour away from Cape Canaveral. The noise actually was from outer space. Specifically, it was the sonic boom caused by the final re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere of the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

A number of my fellow bloggers discussed the final mission of the Space Shuttle, and shared a variety of interesting thoughts and feelings about it, last week here on ZDNet.

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It seems that there's more to celebrate than the bittersweet end of an era. There may be a new beginning in store for us, one that gives us hope of vaccines for both salmonella, which is a common foodborne illness, and MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which is an infection caused by a strain of staph bacteria that's become resistant to the antibiotics we normally use to treat ordinary staph infections.

See also: One more reason not to travel: super-bedbugs

Biotech firms like Astrogenetix have discovered that removing gravity from the equation of bacterial growth makes space an advantageous study environment. Astrogenix has taken salmonella and MRSA into space a dozen times over the last three years. This let's them grow bacteria at warp speed, and extract DNA, so they can learn more about, and make a vaccine for, these nasty microorganisms.

I could continue to go on and on about just how cool this is, but there is a fascinating video that explains more about it. For even more information, visit HealthyState.org, a site that provides health news from Florida public media.

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