Study of the efficacy of a potential living-antibiotic, the bacterium Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus, inside and outside a research station in a Mars-like environment

Due to its particularity of killing other bacteria without killing human cells, Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus is being studied as a serious alternative to antibiotics, especially against resistant strains. Moreover, unlike antibiotics, its effectiveness over time does not diminish, which is particularly relevant for long-term travels such as the transport and establishment of a colony on Mars.


The project I, Ophélie Remy, would like to lead to the Mars Desert Research Station is about Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus. This small bacterium (max 1 µm) has the particularity of feeding on a wide range of other bacteria. This predator is currently being studied by several scientific teams as a real alternative to antibiotics because the bacteria-prey can’t develop resistance against it and it does not attack the cells of the human body [1]. 

Given the consequent duration of travel and potential stays on Mars, storage and management of perishable products such as antibiotics are significant logistic and biomedical parameters. However, using Bdellovibrio as a future alternative, these problems would be greatly reduced. Indeed, instead of storing various types of antibiotic boxes, useless after 2 or 3 years, only a few tubes of frozen bacteria and medium can generate an infinite number of daughter bacteria. 

There is nevertheless a constraint for its proliferation: prey. That’s why, within the two week time limit, my goals will be to

        • Isolate bacteria from the cockpit space, from the environment (if possible) or directly from the crew (saliva, skin, etc.), grow them, identify them, give them as prey to Bdellovibrio bacteria and observe which strains are thus exploitable as easily accessible resources for this predatory bacterium.
        • Compare the efficiency of the predator Bdellovibrio to kill their preys under various extreme conditions to test if the culture of these bacteria is easily achievable in an environment more hostile than the ideal conditions of a laboratory.

[1]Raghunathan D. et al. (2019) Engulfment, persistence and fate of Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus predators inside human phagocytic cells informs their future therapeutic potential. Scientific reports. 9:4293, 1-16. DOI : 10.1038/s41598-019-40223-3.