Mar 19, 2019 08:49 AM EDT
NASA -- The dormant herpes seems to be reactivated when astronauts are on the job in space. According to the new research conducted by NASA, this phenomenon could cause problems not just for astronauts but for space missions in general.
"A spaceflight could trigger the body to release an elevated level of stress hormones. Adrenaline and cortisol are both known to suppress the immune system," said Satish Mehta, the study author and researcher from Johnson Space Center, in a press release.
The study also showed that astronauts immune system, particularly the hormones the help the body eliminate the unwanted viruses become a little less effective, especially during a space flight. "Sometimes, the body is not able to fight off viruses and bacteria for up to sixty days in flight," she added.
In a research study published the in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, Mehta and the rest of the team who conducted the research found that the astronauts shed more herpes virus in their saliva and urine than before they went out to space travel. The culprit: the space flight and the stress that it putting on the human body.
"NASA astronauts get exposed to weeks or even months of micro-radiation and microgravity. This does not include the effect of extreme G-forces that comes with the take-off and re-entry," Mehta said in a press release.
"The physical challenge for astronauts is compounded by familiar stressors like social anxiety due to separation, individual confinement as an alteration in the sleep cycle."
Fortunately, the symptoms of virus infection are relatively rare. Out of a total of 89 astronauts that underwent the study, only six of them experienced the herpes breakout while in space. This number represented about 7% of the total number.
However, the viral shedding only gets worse when the astronauts stay in space longer. Researchers are worried that such conditions could represent for those who are planning to take part in deep space travels in the future.
"While it may seem as if only a small portion of the astronauts develop the symptoms, virus reactivation rates could increase as space flights take longer and go deeper into space," reads the press release.
The health risks that come with space missions to the Moon, Mars or any other part of the orbit could put the astronauts in danger. This is something worthy of attention at the moment before things get worse.
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