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Disease management in space colonies

Posted by: Electrolyte - Fri Aug 27, 2004 8:35 pm
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Disease management in space colonies 
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Post Disease management in space colonies   Posted on: Fri Aug 27, 2004 8:35 pm
When we have the chance to finally leave the planet to create colonies, we'll have the opportunity to leave behind many disease-causing microscopic organisms that are all around us on this planet. That would lead to healthier colonies in the short term, and massive problems for interplanetary trade and tourism in the long term, as the colonists would lose many immunities that we take for granted.
But if they simply say oh well and take whatever microbes that decides to stowaway on the colonists' ship, then you have the equally disturbing problem of microbes evolving in vastly different environments on different planets/colonies, which could lead to more resistant strains of them through experiencing the different environments that a non-earth environment would offer. Who knows what kind of a super-strain of E.Coli, for example, could develop when, through tourism or the like, two differently evolving strains of this bacteria meet up and decide to swap a little DNA.

Neither one of these seem like great choices to me. Anybody see alternatives? I'd hate to end up with Polio or something 40 years down the line simply because I decided to become a space colonist.


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Post    Posted on: Fri Aug 27, 2004 10:44 pm
1. We'll be carrying the diseases with us anyhow. They're in you, they just are suppressed by your immune system.
2. Super diseases arise as a genetic mutation surviving the current treatment process, not because of a change in environment or any such.
3. Standard way to prevent I would suspect is make sure that there is regular medical info exchanged among the colonies (perhaps through Earth as a nexus, since I think most trade will still be with Earth), assuming interstellar colonies. Follow that up with a week-long quarantine and medical tests and you should be good to go.

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Post    Posted on: Sat Aug 28, 2004 5:40 am
Unless you had a very specific vaccine for a virus and the resources to implement it throughout humanity you definitely do not want to limit exposure.

As far as bacteria go, a lot of the nasty ones are essential to our survival and only become problematic when our immune system plays up. However you want to take as much DNA material with you where ever you go, because you never know what gene will be the one that loves your new planet and terraforms it overnight. 8)

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Post    Posted on: Sat Aug 28, 2004 7:03 am
That's a good point about we carry them with us, but not all of them, for example the many varieties of mold and mildew, and perhaps some types of bacteria. So while the first point you make may hold true for E.coli, it probably wouldn't for many other disease-causing organisms such as yellow mold spores which can be airborn.

On point two, I realize that while superbugs develop from treatments, from the organism's point of view, that treatment is merely an unacceptable environment causing it to dynamically adapt. Who's to say that such wildly different environments as zero gravity and increased radiation and the like may not contribute to strange 'adaptations'? For all we know, zero gravity could lead to the increased likelihood of antigenic drift.

Furthermore, the treatment processes that are available earthside are not necessarily going to be available to colonists living far, far away, and so different treatment methods would be utilized in some situations, eventually leading to different adaptations in the organisms.


Unfortunately on your third point, as far as a week-long quarantine, you said so yourself that we carry many of these things inside of us, so wouldn't quarantine be less than effective? (Though I agree it would be highly effective on the airborne particle organisms such as the example already given)


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Post    Posted on: Sat Aug 28, 2004 8:31 am
The situation of colonists and their colonies will be not symmetrical to the situation on earth.

There will be some symmetries but they should searched for very carefully.

The general Asymmetry has its origin in the natural circumstance that we are born and living on our planet withou having a choice before. So no man, no human being had the chance to inspect the planet for bacteria and other sources of diseases. We had to adapt ourselves and we have in future too. We don't know the bacteria here completely, we don't know the diseases here completely and each day there found new ones. Some of the new detected bacteria, proteins etc. are good, healthy, useful others are not.

But concerning settling on other planets and creating colonies there this will not be so. Before settling exactly that site to be settled at will be examined extremly detailed. The entire planet will have been analysed, checked, researched long time ago - the manned Mars mission intended in 2015 will land on a planet researched for 40 years and rovers able to detect bacteria etc. will have been there before the landing.

Colonists will have the choice and it is possible to create habs and environments completely closed against and seperated from the natural environment of that planet. At the Mars for example no bacteria and nothing else to is living directly on the surface within the reach of the solar wind or the radiation. If the habs are set on legs the colonists will be safe - and the martian environment will be safe too. Concerning Pathfinder and Sojourner (if I remenber right) NASA said that both were contaminated by roundabout 300.000 earthian microbes, bacteria etc. But these earthian microbes cannot contamine the martian environment because their way into the martian soil leads throught the solar particles and the radiation of space.

...



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Post    Posted on: Sat Aug 28, 2004 5:40 pm
Electrolyte wrote:
Unfortunately on your third point, as far as a week-long quarantine, you said so yourself that we carry many of these things inside of us, so wouldn't quarantine be less than effective? (Though I agree it would be highly effective on the airborne particle organisms such as the example already given)


The quarantine's not supposed to allow you to cure the poor devil that's already sick. The idea is so that he croaks before he has a chance to spread it (assuming he's vulnerable to it). You also run a full blood test battery, and find out if he's carrying anything that he's invulnerable to but you're not.

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Post    Posted on: Sun Aug 29, 2004 9:47 pm
Lotta good thoughts on this topic you guys. I guess I figured that illness management was a topic that is usually glossed over as we get closer to the future of space, travel, colonies, etc. But yall are on the ball yet again. I love chatting here, everybody's so smart (:


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Post    Posted on: Tue Aug 31, 2004 1:24 pm
I suppose the question requires a more detailed discussion.

My proposal to put habs on legs to prevent microbes of other planets to cause the human colonists diseases will be of use only if the colony is on a planet with microbes and life under the surface only.

But this means that this planet is of another kind than earth concerning life.

So a classification of planets is required to determine how to prevent problems caused by the planet's life. This classification has to be a basis to decide which habs are nedde, what way settlement can be conducted, what cost are to be expected and much more.

What classifications by scientists are already existing? What ideas do you have yourself?



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Post    Posted on: Wed Sep 01, 2004 9:55 am
It might be worth feeding humans to the alien bacteria to keep them alive long enough to study.

It would be awesome to go to another planet and find bacteria capable of killing humans.

The big problem is maintaining immunity against all the wee nasties we already know about. This is why small pox is such a scary threat at the moment. We have already 'irradicated' it. A MArs colony might irradicate several viruses from its population, simply through serendipitously not taking them along. After a generation a colony would be as open to devastation for visitors as any 16th or 17th century indigenous population.

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Post    Posted on: Wed Sep 01, 2004 11:22 am
While answering your post concerning arrtificial closed-loop-ecologies I had the idea that such ecologies might be good instruments to analyze martian soil and soils of other plantes for insane microbes and bacteria.

If two nearly identical close-loop-ecologies are provided to the one martian soil could be added. Then scientists could observe what's going on in this ecology compared to the other. Especially they could analyse dead and alive insects, they could analyse proteins, enzymes and DNAs and compare them to the other ecology not mixed with martian soil.

And this moment I remember a short article reporting that NASA has created or intends to create a plant luminescensing if there's danger. The plant is designed for martian purposes.



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Post    Posted on: Thu Sep 02, 2004 12:20 pm
Ekkehard Augustin wrote:
And this moment I remember a short article reporting that NASA has created or intends to create a plant luminescensing if there's danger. The plant is designed for martian purposes.


Don't quote me on this, but I believe the plant is supposed to glow if exposed to excessive amounts of radiation.

Oh, and idiom: let's make a few tissue cultures of humans and see how the bacteria responds to that, instead of sentencing humans to a very slow, excruciatingly agonizing death.

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Last edited by spacecowboy on Thu Sep 02, 2004 1:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post    Posted on: Thu Sep 02, 2004 12:50 pm
But it would be alien life! I suppose the UN could se up a department to supply the aliens will all the cultured human tissues they need, and maybe blood donations or something.

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Post    Posted on: Thu Sep 02, 2004 1:01 pm
Hello, spacecowboy,

don't worry - I'm not feeling offended so fast. And this moment I don't remember any Doktor Rascher.

Concerning the plant you may be right - I suppose that plants can be modified to react to martian bacteria too by glowing (UV-glowing perhaps? As defense against the martian bacteria?)

I assist to your tissue-proposal - it's analogous to my proposal using two close-loop-ecologies.



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Post    Posted on: Thu Sep 02, 2004 1:03 pm
idiom wrote:
But it would be alien life! I suppose the UN could se up a department to supply the aliens will all the cultured human tissues they need, and maybe blood donations or something.


That I don't have a problem with. Cultured tissues, blood donations, and the like are fine. Live humans, on the other hand...... No.

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Post    Posted on: Thu Sep 02, 2004 1:15 pm
I was already suspecting that - but sorry - I don't read about such things in detail for several reasons. First during my time at school the topics "Hitler", "Nationalsocialism", "Fascism", "Holocaust", "Third Empire" were teached at least three times more than all other topics in three classes and second I cannot learn something useful and positive by reading on those medical experiments.

From your point of view I might be wrong - I suppose these things in US schools not to be teached as intensively as up to 25 years ago here in Germany.

I don't think that there is any danger that someone would sentence a human to death by experimental analyses of martian life.



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