Astronaut
Astronaut Pixabay

A recent study report published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology has revealed that astronauts are at a higher risk of developing herpes during space travel.

As per the research report, dormant herpes viruses reactivate in more than half the astronauts who have travelled in space shuttle till International Space station (ISS). NASA believes that this phenomenon could cause serious problems during prolonged deep space missions.

The research was carried out by Satish Mehta, a NASA researcher at the Johnson Space Center. In news release, researchers revealed that astronauts shed more herpes viruses in their urine and saliva during space travel, while experts believe that due to extreme stress during the space travel this phenomenon occurs.

"During spaceflight, there is a rise in the secretion of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which are known to suppress the immune system. In keeping with this, we find that astronaut's immune cells - particularly those that normally suppress and eliminate viruses - become less effective during spaceflight and sometimes for up to 60 days after. This physical challenge is compounded by more familiar stressors like social separation, confinement, and an altered sleep-wake cycle" said Satish Mehta in the press release, Phys.org reports.

Fortunately, herpes symptoms developed by astronauts are very rare, and out of the 89 participants the team studied during the research, only six experienced herpes breakout while being in space.

It should be noted that viral shedding gets increased when astronauts spend so many days on space and it poses a serious threat especially during future trips to Mars.

Facts about Herpes simplex:

  • There are two types of herpes simplex viruses: HSV-1 (herpes type 1, or oral herpes) and HSV-2 (herpes type 2, or genital herpes).
  • Over 50 percent of people in the US have HSV-1.
  • Around 15.5 percent of people in the US, aged between 14 and 49, have HSV-2
  • Receiving oral sex from somebody who has cold sores around their mouth significantly raises the risk of becoming infected.