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They found that four of the eight herpes viruses known to infect humans reactivated and resurfaced as a result of spaceflight. Specifically, 53 percent of astronauts who underwent space shuttle missions and 61 percent of astronauts who had gone on long stays on the ISS were shedding herpes viruses at much higher rates through their saliva and urine. The four herpes viruses detected include the three aforementioned types, in addition to the HSV type that causes oral and genital herpes.
Viral shedding indicates a reactivation of the virus, but it certainly doesn’t indicate sickness. In fact, the research team found that only six of the 112 astronauts who participated in the study experienced symptoms related to their viruses, and those symptoms were quite minor.
Question - Findings - Concerns - Everyone - Body
Nevertheless, there’s no question the new findings raise some concerns. Everyone’s body works differently, and minor symptoms in one person could be serious symptoms in another. “During deep space exploration missions, crew members would be constrained to a smaller area for a longer period of time with little or no ability to return to Earth quickly,” says Mehta. “The factors that negatively affect immunity will all be elevated. NASA is focused on understanding how these viruses behave and developing countermeasures to protect astronauts on longer duration missions farther into space.”
That’s much easier said than done, of course. When it comes to these herpes viruses, the ideal countermeasure, says Mehta, is vaccination, but so far this is only available against the VZV...
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