NASA study finds herpes viruses reactivate in astronauts, what causes flare-ups in space

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4 human herpes viruses have been discovered to reactivate in astronauts on house shuttle and Worldwide House Station missions, in response to new analysis by NASA.

The examine, printed in Frontiers in Microbiology final month, discovered that these viruses have been capable of flare up due to the excessive ranges of stress astronauts bear throughout spaceflight. It additionally discovered that the longer the mission, the upper the charges of reactivation.

Although the findings don’t present severe hazard for present flights, longer missions, equivalent to a mission to Mars, may very well be impacted by the potential of herpes viruses to be developed.

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“NASA astronauts endure weeks and even months uncovered to microgravity and cosmic radiation — to not point out the acute G forces of take-off and re-entry,” Dr. Satish Okay. Mehta, of KBR Wyle on the Johnson House Middle and senior creator of the examine, stated.

“This bodily problem is compounded by extra acquainted stressors like social separation, confinement and an altered sleep-wake cycle,” Mehta added.

Researchers studied saliva, blood and urine samples from astronauts earlier than, throughout and after spaceflight. They discovered stress hormones elevated throughout the journey and dormant viruses resurfaced.

Scientists discovered 4 of the eight recognized human herpes viruses — for oral and genital herpes, for rooster pox and shingles, for Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and for Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). CMV and EBV are each recognized for inflicting completely different strains of mono.

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“Throughout spaceflight there’s a rise in secretion of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, that are recognized to suppress the immune system. In line with this, we discover that astronauts’ immune cells — significantly people who usually suppress and eradicate viruses — turn into much less efficient throughout spaceflight and typically for as much as 60 days after,” Mehta stated.

Mehta added that 53 p.c of astronauts on shorter house shuttle flights and 61 p.c of astronauts on longer Worldwide House Station missions had traces of herpes viruses of their saliva or urine samples, which is greater in frequency and amount than in samples from earlier than or after spaceflight. Nonetheless, solely six astronauts developed precise signs from viral reactivation and even these signs have been minor.

“The magnitude, frequency and period of viral shedding [reactivation] all enhance with size of spaceflight,” Mehta stated.

The discovering may have an effect on how NASA prepares to ship people deeper into house, previous the moon and Mars.

“The best countermeasure is vaccination for astronauts — however that is up to now accessible solely towards VZV [the virus responsible for chickenpox and shingles],” Mehta stated, including that “trials of different herpes virus vaccines present little promise, so our current focus is on growing focused remedy regimens for people struggling the results of viral reactivation.”

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