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The way bacteria act in near-zero gravity environments could pose a serious problem for treating astronauts with infections.
The "clever shape-shifting" was detected in bacteria being experimented on in the near-weightlessness of space, and is believed to help the bacteria survive.
Experiment - E - Coli - Concentrations - Gentamicin
An experiment on the common E coli bacteria subjected it to different concentrations of the antibiotic gentamicin sulfate, a drug which kills the bug on Earth.
However, in comparison to a control group on Earth, the space bacteria showed a 13-fold increase in cell numbers and a 73% reduction in cell column size.
Bacteria - Space - Concentrations - Antibiotics - Study
"We knew bacteria behave differently in space and that it takes higher concentrations of antibiotics to kill them," said the study's lead author, Dr Luis Zea.
"What's new is that we conducted a systematic analysis of the changing physical appearance of the bacteria during the experiments."
Paper - Frontiers - Microbiology - Operate - Forces
The paper, published in Frontiers in Microbiology, describes how bacteria operate when they do not have any gravity-driven forces such as buoyancy and sedimentation.
Dr Zea said that this means the only way the ISS bacteria could ingest nutrients or drugs was through natural diffusion.
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