Space at Southampton
Dr Franklin Nobrega, Lecturer in Microbiology, contributed a chapter entitled Modulating the astronaut’s microbiome during long space missions. His expertise is centred around gastrointestinal health and the challenges astronauts face in maintaining this on long-duration missions. Currently, antibiotics are given to astronauts to tackle bacterial infections caused by a lack of microbial intake from food and air as it normally occurs on Earth. But antibiotics can damage microbiota,
predisposing astronauts to illness such as chronic diarrhoea.
Dr Nobrega proposes the use of bacteriophages, or phages – a group of viruses that infect bacteria – as an alternative to antibiotics. Phages act only on their target bacteria, leaving healthy microbiota untouched. Dr Nobrega’s ongoing research is assessing the efficacy and safety of phages as a treatment for antibiotic-resistant infections, the use of phages for the prevention and treatment of disorders associated with an imbalanced gastrointestinal microbiota, and ways to prevent the
development of phage resistance.