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Space Travel is Causing Astronauts' Herpes to Flare Up



Dormant Viruses

Tests show that dormant herpes viruses are reactivated in more than half of the astronauts who travel on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station, according to new NASA research – a phenomenon that the space agency says could pose problems for deep space

"During spaceflight there is an increase in secretion of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which are known to suppress the immune system," said study author Satish Mehta, a researcher at Johnson Space Center, in a press release. "In keeping with this, we find that astronaut's immune cells – especially those that normally suppress and eliminate viruses – become less effective during spaceflight and sometimes up to 60 days after."

Less Effective

In research published last month in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology Mehta and colleagues found that astronauts shed more herpes viruses in their urine and saliva than before or after space travel.

"NASA astronauts endure weeks or even months exposed to microgravity and cosmic radiation ̵

1; not to mention the extreme G forces of take-off and re-entry," Mehta said in the press release. "This physical challenge is compounded by more familiar stressors like social separation, confinement and an altered sleep-wake cycle."

Minor Symptoms

Fortunately, the symptoms were relatively rare. Out of 89 astronauts the team surveyed, only six experienced herpes breakouts in space, according to the paper – a rate of about seven percent.

The viral shedding also got worse the longer the astronauts were off Earth, leading researchers to worry the

"While only a small proportion develops symptoms, virus reactivation rates increase with spaceflight duration and could present a significant health risk on missions to Mars and beyond," reads the press release. 19659003] READ MORE: Dormant viruses activate during spaceflight [ Phys.org
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