Home Culture NASA Astronauts Are Plagued By Herpes, Says Study

NASA Astronauts Are Plagued By Herpes, Says Study

If space isn’t scary enough for you, rest easy because scientists have discovered that there’s actual space herpes.

The journal Frontiers in Microbiology recently published an article that mentions how NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station and other space shuttles have been plagued by the resurgence of herpes. Turns out the stress of space travel causes the dormant virus to flare up.

According to the study, more than half of astronauts (53 percent) who have undergone short term space shuttle flights are showing signs of herpes. To gather this data, researchers took samples of blood, urine and saliva before and after the astronauts boarded their trips. They theorize that exposure to micro gravity, cosmic radiation and the force of take off and flight deeply affect subjects’ immunity systems, making them more sensitive to viruses and bacteria.

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The study also reveals that astronauts’ immune cells become less effective during flight and up to 60 days after the original trip. “NASA astronauts endure weeks or even months exposed to microgravity and cosmic radiation—not to mention the extreme G forces of take-off and re-entry,” says the study’s senior author, Dr. Satish K. Mehta. “This physical challenge is compounded by more familiar stressors like social separation, confinement and an altered sleep-wake cycle.”

It’s not surprising that space travel makes the human body more sensitive to viruses and diseases. Despite the fact that the effects analyzed are minor in the grand scheme of things, these results are factors that need to be accounted for when it comes to planning longer trips in space.

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