More than half of crew aboard Space Shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) suffered from reactivation of dormant viruses, such as herpes, caused by space travel, based on a NASA study that came to that conclusion.
The scientists also believe that this problem will affect the crew of the future missions to Mars and beyond. The longer the flight is, the more significant the risks to reactivate the virus, and, on future missions, this could be a significant health risk.
“NASA astronauts endure weeks or even months exposed to microgravity and cosmic radiation — not to mention the extreme G forces of take-off and re-entry,” said Satish K Mehta at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “This physical challenge is compounded by more familiar stressors like social separation, confinement, and an altered sleep-wake cycle,” said Mehta.
Space travel reactivates dormant viruses such as herpes, a recent NASA study revealed
Researchers analyzed blood, saliva and urine samples collected from astronauts after, during and before the spaceflight to study the physiological impact of spaceflight. Mehta explained that during spaceflight the stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are secreted more and the disadvantage is that the immune system is suppressed.
“In keeping with this, we find that astronaut’s immune cells –particularly those that normally suppress and eliminate viruses — become less effective during spaceflight and sometimes for up to 60 days after,” Mehta added. Amid this stress-induced amnesty on viral killing, dormant viruses reactivate and resurface, according to the research published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.
The researcher also said that 47 out of 89 (53 percent) astronauts on short space shuttle flights, to date, and 14 out of 23 (61 percent) on more extended ISS missions had traces of herpes viruses in their urine or saliva samples. The quantity and the frequencies of viral shedding, compared to samples from before or after the flight, are markedly higher.
Jasmine holds a Master’s in Journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto and writes professionally in a broad variety of genres. She has worked as a senior manager in public relations and communications for major telecommunication companies, and is the former Deputy Director for Media Relations with the Modern Coalition. Jasmine writes primarily in our LGBTTQQIAAP and Science section.