Dormant viruses awaken during space flights

The virus cold sores activated again at more than half of the crew aboard the space Shuttle and the International space station, shows a NASA study published in Frontiers in Microbiology. While the symptoms showed only a small proportion, the rate of reactivation of the virus increases with duration of space flight and can pose a significant health risk when flying to Mars and beyond. Fast virus detection by NASA and the ongoing studies are beginning to protect astronauts and patients with weakened immune systems on Earth.

The herpes virus reactivated by the astronauts with weakened immune systems

“The astronauts NASA survive weeks or even months, remaining exposed to microgravity and space radiation — not to mention extreme overloads during takeoff and re-entry,” says senior author Dr. Satish Mehta from KBR Wyle Space center. Johnson. “This physical problem is compounded by the already-familiar stressors, such as social division, conclusion, and changed the cycle of sleep-wakefulness.”

To study the physiological effects of spaceflight Mehta and his colleagues analyzed saliva samples, blood and urine that are collected from astronauts before, during, and after space flight.

“During space flight secretion of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, increases, and this, as we know, suppresses the immune system. In accordance with this we find that the immune cells of an astronaut, especially those which usually suppress and kill viruses become less efficient during space flight, and sometimes up to 60 days after him.”

And at this moment the dormant virus re-activated and contacted.

“To date, 47 of 89 (53%) of the astronauts, making short flights in the Shuttle, and 14 of 23 (61%), exercising more long flights on the ISS, detected the herpes virus in samples of saliva or urine,” according to Mehta. “This frequency — and quantity — isolation of the virus is much higher than in the samples before or after the flight”.

We found only four of the eight known herpes viruses of man. These include the type responsible for oral and genital herpes (HSV), varicella and herpes zoster (VZV) — which are stored throughout our lives in our nerve cells as well as CMV and EBV, which reside in our immune cells in childhood, however, does not manifesting itself. CMV and EBV have been associated with various strains of mononucleosis or “the kissing disease”.

To date, the manifestation of the virus is asymptomatic.

“Only six astronauts showed symptoms associated with viral reactivation. They were all insignificant.”

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

“Infectious VZV and CMV remained within biological fluids, within 30 days after returning from the International space station”.

Moreover, as our preparation for human flight into deep space beyond the moon and Mars, the risk of reactivation of the herpes virus could worsen.

“The magnitude, frequency and duration of symptoms of the virus increases with duration of space flight. The ideal countermeasure is vaccination astronauts, but so far it is only available against VZV”.

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