Potentially dangerous fungi are living on space stations and spacecraft right now — but we have no idea if they’re harmful for astronauts and scientists need to do much more research to figure that out. That’s the takeaway from a new study published April 11 in the journal Astrobiology reviewing what’s known about mycotoxins — fungal compounds that can harm humans — in space.
The Earth is teeming with microscopic inhabitants such as bacteria and single-celled fungi. So it’s no surprise that these constant companions have managed to hitchhike with humans aboard the International Space Station and other space-going vessels.
While scientists have done a fair amount of research on bacteria in space, fungi remain relatively understudied. Part of the reason is that these microbial mushroom cousins typically cause health problems only in people who live under stressful conditions or who have severely compromised immune systems.