Space travel gives astronauts shingles and cold sores: Stress in the headline is triggering herpes recovery & # 39;
- Astronauts had increased levels of cold sores and cleft fever
- Seven percent had actual outbreaks in space, but many shed the viruses
- Experts worry long stints in the room are harmful to the immune system
Sam Blanchard Health Reporter For Mailonline
Herpes viruses come back to life in most astronauts traveling to space, according to a study.
Scientists said about one in 14 people (7 percent) carrying a virus had a break in space, while about 57 percent shed more of the viruses than on the ground.
The viruses that cause cold sores, shingles and glandular fever become dormant over time, but periods of stress or exhaustion can bring them back to life.
If you enter the room, the immune system weakens enough to allow inactive viruses to revive it could pose health risks to people on longer expeditions, experts say.
The longer astronauts use in space the higher the levels of herpes viruses are found in their body fluids, according to the research, because stress and fatigue caused by space travel weaken their immune system (stock image)
NASA-funded researchers in the US studied 89 astronauts in both spaceflight and the International Space Station (ISS), if they went there.
They tested the astronauts' saliva for traces of HSV-1, the herpes strain that causes cold sores and can also affect the genitals and other parts of the body.
Some 53 percent of the astronauts in flight and 61 percent of ISS astronauts had traces of virus release – when it reproduces and attempts to spread.
And the longer people spent in space, the more active the virus became, and the larger the quantities it was recorded.
The study said "more" people in the study developed shingles while they were in circulation.
The researchers said space travel triggered a tip in stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which are known to weaken the immune system.
Astronauts were also found to produce increasing amounts of the Epstein-Barr virus, causing glandular fever; varicella zoster causing chickenpox and shingles; and cytomegalovirus, which are usually harmless. All are herpes viruses.
"NASA astronauts endure weeks or even months prone to microgravity and cosmic radiation – not to mention the extreme G-forces for onset and re-entry," said study author Dr. Satish Mehta.
HOW VIRUSES REACTIVE?
Herpes viruses, such as those that cause cold sores, genital herpes, glandular fever, chickenpox and shingles, become dormant in the body over time.
This means they stop causing symptoms but never go away.
The viruses live in the nerves where they can spend months or years without producing signs of infection if the immune system can keep them under control.
Some people become asymptomatic carriers of the viruses, which means that they have the virus in their body and can transmit it but do not have wounds or other symptoms.
However, if the immune system is weakened, the viruses may break out and cause diseases such as sores on the mouth or genitals or on the skin as in the case of shingles.
Antiviral drugs can help control these symptoms and suppress the viruses if people suffer regularly, but their body cannot be cleared.
Professor Rolf Renne of the University of Florida said in a study in 2014: "Probably 95 percent of us have been infected with at least one herpes virus, but many people never have a problem with it."
& # 39; This physical challenge is enhanced by more familiar stressors such as social separation, containment, and a changed sleep monitoring cycle. & # 39;
He added: "During spaceflight, there is an increase in the secretion of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which are known to suppress the immune system.
"Accordingly, we find that the astronaut's immune cells – especially those that normally suppress and remove viruses – become less effective during spaceflight and sometimes for up to 60 days after."
Dr Mehta and his team suggested longer periods of space – for example, flights to Mars, which could take nearly a year in each direction – could pose health risks to space scientists.
And the astronauts may also be more likely to spread the viruses when they return to the ground.
Traveling to space is known to be detrimental to the health of astronauts – they may suffer from weaker muscles and bones, a higher risk of Alzheimer's disease and cancer and problems with their heart rhythms.
Herpes viruses, of which there are eight types that infect humans, are usually spread by skin to skin contact and are extremely common.
More than two-thirds of the under-50s worldwide (3.7 billion) are believed to have HSV-1, according to the World Health Organization.
While an estimated one in 10 (11 percent) of 15 to 49 year olds, HSV-2 is the main cause of genital herpes.
More than 90 percent of people are believed to carry the Epstein-Barr virus, while nearly a third of people develop shingles, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The research was published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.