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Sleeping viruses awaken during space travel

Herpes virus is again activated in more than halfcrew aboard space shuttles and the International Space Station, shows a NASA study published in Frontiers in Microbiology. While only a small part of the symptoms appear, the virus’s reactivation rate increases with the duration of the space flight and can pose a significant health risk when traveling to Mars and beyond. NASA's rapid detection systems and research are beginning to protect astronauts — and immunocompromised patients on Earth.

Herpes virus is reactivated by astronauts with a weakened immune system.

"NASA astronauts are going through weeks or evenmonths, remaining susceptible to microgravity and cosmic radiation - not to mention extreme overloads during takeoff and return to the atmosphere, ”says senior study author Dr. Satish Mehta from KBR Wyle at the Hob. Johnson "This physical problem is exacerbated by already familiar stress factors, such as social separation, imprisonment, and an altered sleep-wake cycle."

To study the physiological effects of spaceflight, Mehta and his colleagues analyze samples of saliva, blood and urine taken from astronauts before, during and after spaceflight.

"During space flight, hormone secretionstress, such as cortisol and adrenaline, increases, and this, as we know, suppresses the immune system. In line with this, we find that astronaut’s immune cells, especially those that normally suppress and destroy viruses, become less effective during space flight, and sometimes up to 60 days after it. ”

And at this moment the dormant viruses are activated again and get in touch.

"To date, 47 out of 89 (53%)astronauts making short flights in space shuttles, and 14 out of 23 (61%) carrying out longer flights to the ISS, have herpes viruses in saliva or urine samples, ”Mehta reports. "This frequency — and also the amount — of virus excretion is noticeably higher than in samples before or after flight.

A total of four of eight knownhuman herpes viruses. These include those responsible for oral and genital herpes (HSV), chicken pox and shingles (VZV) - which persist throughout life in our nerve cells - as well as CMV and EBV, which are constantly in our immune cells in childhood, however, does not manifest itself. CMV and EBV are associated with various strains of mononucleosis, or “kissing disease”.

So far, the manifestation of viruses was asymptomatic.

“Only six astronauts identified symptoms associated with viral reactivation. They were all minor. ”

However, the prolonged manifestation of viruses after the flight may endanger people with immunodeficiency or uninfected on Earth, for example, newborns.

"Infectious VZV and CMV remained in biological fluids for 30 days after returning from the International Space Station."

Moreover, as we prepare to fly a man into deep space beyond the Moon and Mars, the risk of herpes virus reactivation may worsen.

"The magnitude, frequency and duration of manifestationvirus increases with the duration of space flight. The astronauts vaccination would be the perfect countermeasure, but for now it is only available against VZV. ”

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