Herpes viruses are repeated in more than half of the crews in space shipments and in international space offices, according to a NASA study published in Boundaries in microbiology. While only a small proportion develop symptoms, the virus's re-virus rates increase with space time and can pose significant health risks in missions to Mars and beyond.
NASA's rapid virus detection systems and ongoing research studies are beginning to protect astronauts and non-spectrum patients on Earth.
Herpes viruses re-activate astronauts immunocompromised
"NASA astronauts go on for weeks or even months exposed to micro-radiation and cosmic radiation – not to mention the extreme G forces of takeoff and re-entry," said senior author Dr. Satsch Kehta of KBR Wyle At the Johnson Space Center. "This physical challenge is overcome by more familiar pressures such as social separation, confinement, and a change in the sleep-sleep cycle."
To investigate the physiological effect of air space, Mehta and his colleagues analyze rock, blood and urine samples collected from astronauts before, during and after flight.
"There is an increase in the secretion of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which are known to suppress the immune system, and therefore we find that the astronaut's immune cells – especially those that usually suppress and eliminate viruses – become less efficient during space and sometimes up to 60 days after."
In the midst of a pardon induced by the pressure on viral manslaughter, dormant viruses are returning and regenerating.
"So far, 47 out of 89 (53 percent) astronauts on short shuttle flights and 14 out of 23 (61 percent) on longer ISS missions have spilled herpes viruses into saliva or urine samples," Mehta reports. "These frequencies – as well as the amount of viral burning are much higher than in samples before or after flight, or from healthy control respectively."
Overall, four out of eight known human herpes viruses have been identified. These include the strains responsible for oral and genital herpes (HSV), chicken pox and shingles (VZV) – which remain intact in our nerve cells – as well as CMV and EBV, which take a regular but eventless residence in our immune cells during childhood. CMV and EBV, are two viruses associated with causing different strains of mononucleosis or "kissing disease".
Deep field exploration can depend on prevention and effective treatment
So far, this viral ejaculation is usually asymptomatic.
"Only six astronauts have developed any symptoms as a result of reactivation of viruses," says Mehta. "Everyone was easy."
However, the continued virus and flight shedding may jeopardize the immune or uninfected connection to the planet, such as infants.
"Infectious VZV and CMV were shed in body fluids up to 30 days after returning from the International Space Station."
What's more, as we prepare for human space missions beyond the Moon and Mars, the risk of re-emergence of the herpes virus can make astronauts and their contacts more crucial.
"The size, frequency and duration of viral ejaculation all increase with the length of spaceflight."
Developing a countermeasure to reactivate vital viruses to the success of these tasks, Mehta says.
"The ideal means of balancing is vaccination for astronauts – but it is so only available against VZV."
"Trials of other herpes virus vaccines show little promise, so our current focus is on developing targeted treatment regimens for people with the consequences of viral re-activation.
"This research has tremendous clinical relevance to patients on the planet, and already today, the technologies developed for our space for rapid viral identification in Brock have been employed in clinics and hospitals around the world."
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Bridgestone V. Ronnie et al., Herpes Viruses Reactivation in Astronauts During Spaceflight and its application to Earth, Boundaries in microbiology (2019). DOI: 10.3389 / fmicb.2019.00016