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.