Going into space at the top of a rocket is something that very few people have ever had the opportunity to do. It is a dangerous journey, but the reward is something that those of us who spend our entire lives here on solid ground cannot understand in any way. Also, apparently, it makes your herpes flare up.
In one of the most bizarre but still interesting reports coming out of NASA this year, the researchers reveal that over half of the astronauts who spent time in space have experience of rasping of herpes with varying degrees of severity.
The research, which was published in Frontiers in microbiology, they used biological samples collected by the astronauts before their space missions, while in space, and then again after their return to Earth. As for what actually causes the herpes virus reactivation in astronauts who had had some form in the past, researchers have some ideas.
"During space flight, there is an increase in the secretion of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which are known to suppress the immune system," the senior author Satish said in a statement K. Mehta of NASA. "In line with this, we find that the astronaut's immune cells, particularly those that normally suppress and eliminate viruses, become less effective during space flight and sometimes up to 60 days later."
There are many factors at play here, and the researchers suggest that dramatic lifestyle changes as they embark on space missions – deformed day / night cycles, social isolation, etc. – increase the stress levels of the astronauts and suppress the immune response. This, in turn, opens a window to reactivate the virus.
Of the dozens of astronauts found to have herpes virus exacerbations from their space travel, only six of them actually had symptoms. Viral reactivation occurred in the others but produced no symptoms reported by the astronauts.