Nanobacteria Implicated in Kidney Stones

One of the original discoverers of nanobacteria (NB) and NASA researchers have presented evidence supporting the role of the mysterious agent in kidney stone formation. If further studies confirm the results, a better treatment for this painful condition may include antibiotics.

Finnish researchers first forwarded the idea of NB as a novel life form and disease vector in 1998 and the Mayo Clinic confirmed the existence of the particles in May 2004. NB have since been implicated in many medical conditions where calcification is involved, such as hardening of the arteries and Alzheimer’s Disease. The question as to whether or not the particles are living organisms is yet to be resolved. NB are smaller than bacteria and nearly as small as viruses. If inanimate, the particles could instead be the result of a poorly understood crystallization method.

The latest study by Dr. Neva Çiftçioglu et al found NB replicating at nearly five times their normal rate under microgravity conditions. The image of NB to the left, courtesy Dr. Çiftçioglu, was taken using a transmission electron microscope (TEM). The white bar at the bottom of the image is only 100 nanometers in length. The possibility of microbial infection in close quarters has been identified as a serious risk to astronauts. Astronauts may be at an even higher risk of various diseases during longer duration space flights, such as a mission to Mars. A follow-up study may include measuring NB antigen and antibody levels in astronauts before and after an upcoming mission into space.

Richard Leis

Richard Leis

Richard Leis (he/him/his) lives in Tucson, Arizona where he writes poetry and fiction, attends and teaches writing workshops at the Writers Studio Tucson, and works for HiRISE, a team in the Lunar & Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona with a camera in orbit around Mars onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

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