Space Toilets Aren’t As Clean As You Might Think

November 29, 2018, 5:10 PM UTC

If you happen to be on board the International Space Station and you feel the call of nature, we suggest determining just how long you can hold it.

Scientists at NASA have discovered four previously unknown antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria living in the space toilets, Live Science reports. Another antibiotic-resistant strain was found on a piece of exercise equipment.


The good news: Scientists say it’s not something that’s going to kill astronauts. The bad news: They kind of added a “yet” to that disclaimer.

“It is important to understand that the strains found on the ISS were not virulent, which means they are not an active threat to human health, but [still] something to be monitored,” said Nitin Singh, lead study author and a member of JPL’s Biotechnology and Planetary Protection Group.

Better still? The authors of the study said there’s a 79% chance the bacteria could evolve to something that will cause disease in humans on future missions.

They’ll know more after they study it in a living body in space—presumably a lab rat or some other creature, rather than an astronaut who draws a short straw, which is kind of how we imagine the process went for determining who had to swab the space toilet in the first place.