Probiotics into outer space: feasibility assessments of encapsulated freeze-dried probiotics during 1 month’s storage on the International Space Station

Takafumi Sakai et. al. (2018)  Scientific Reports volume 8, Article number: 10687

doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-29094-2

Suppression of immune function during long spaceflights is an issue that needs to be overcome. The well-established probiotic Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota (LcS) could be a promising countermeasure, and we have launched a project to investigate the efficacy of its use on the International Space Station (ISS). As a first step, we developed a specialist probiotic product for space experiments, containing freeze-dried LcS in capsule form (Probiotics Package), and tested its stability through 1 month of storage on the ISS. The temperature inside the ISS ranged from 20.0 to 24.5°C. The absorbed dose rate of the flight sample was 0.26 mGy/day and the dose equivalent rate was 0.52mSv/day. The number of live LcS was 1.05×1011 colony-forming units/g powder (49.5% of the initial value) 6 months after the start of the study; this value was comparable to those in the two ground controls. Profiles of randomly amplified polymorphic DNA, sequence variant frequency, carbohydrate fermentation, reactivity to LcS-specific antibody, and the cytokine-inducing ability of LcS in the flight sample did not differ from those of the ground controls. We can therefore maintain the viability and basic probiotic properties of LcS stored as a Probiotics Package on the ISS.