Study finds astronauts may develop Herpes infection during the space stint
Astronauts are vulnerable to latent herpes infection when they are in space, a new study has found. Following the study NASA has issued a warning about Herpes in astronauts.
“Latent herpes virus reactivation has been demonstrated in astronauts during shuttle (10–16 days) and International Space Station (≥180 days) flights. Following reactivation, viruses are shed in the body fluids of astronauts.
Typically, shedding of viral DNA is asymptomatic in astronauts regardless of mission duration; however, in some cases, live/infectious virus was recovered by tissue culture that was associated with atopic-dermatitis or skin lesions during and after spaceflight,” says a study published in Frontiers of Microbiology.
“Exposure of astronauts, during both short and long duration spaceflight, to non-terrestrial hazards such as variable gravitational forces including acceleration/deceleration, cosmic radiation, and microgravity result in a unique set of stressors that contribute to the dysregulation of the immune and endocrine systems”
Herpes virus causes a self limiting infection, some forms of which can be very painful. However the infection has a tendency of recurring which is what seems to happen with astronauts who already have a latent infection.
Affected areas of the body break into boils or skin lesions that can be both disfiguring and painful. The latent infection manifests in conditions of low immunity, much like tuberculosis. It is usually a sexually transmitted disease.
“Exposure of astronauts, during both short and long duration spaceflight, to non-terrestrial hazards such as variable gravitational forces including acceleration/deceleration, cosmic radiation, and microgravity result in a unique set of stressors that contribute to the dysregulation of the immune and endocrine systems (Crucian and Sams, 2009; Crucian et al., 2013). In addition, they also endure some common stressors including but not limited to social separation, confinement, sleep deprivation, circadian rhythm disruption, and anxiety,” the study says.
Herpes viruses share a long-term co-evolutionary history with humankind. This promotes a relatively benign life-long persistence of the virus within the host. In healthy individuals with robust immune surveillance, viral activity can occur in the absence of clinical symptoms.