Receive our newsletter – data, insights and analysis delivered to you
  1. News
March 18, 2019

NASA calls for new vaccinations to combat virus reactivation during spaceflight

Researchers from NASA’s Johnson Space Center have discovered that dormant herpes viruses reactivate during spaceflight, leading to an urgent need to develop counter-measures, including vaccination, to ensure the success of deep-space missions.

By Allie Nawrat

Researchers from NASA’s Johnson Space Center have discovered that dormant herpes viruses reactivate during spaceflight, leading to an urgent need to develop counter-measures, including vaccination, to ensure the success of deep-space missions.

Currently only vaccinations are available for varicella-zoster virus (VZV), which causes chickenpox and shingles, but three further varieties of herpes were detected in astronauts tested by the team: herpes simplex virus (HSV), cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Epstein–Barr virus (EBV).

EBV and CMV are responsible for causing glandular fever, while HSV causes oral and genital herpes.

Senior author of the study Dr Satish Mehta said: “Our present focus is on developing targeted treatment regimens for individuals suffering the consequences of viral reactivation.”

This is especially important because, as noted by Mehta, “the magnitude, frequency and duration of viral shedding all increase with length of spaceflight,” meaning that although only six astronauts developed symptoms in the study, more astronauts could be at risk during deep-space missions to the Moon or Mars.

Based upon analysis of saliva, blood and urine samples collected before, during and following space-flight, of the 89 crew aboard Space Shuttle flights and the 23 on International Space Station missions, 61“shed herpes viruses in their saliva or urine samples.”

Content from our partners
Extractables and leachables analysis in pharmaceutical quality control
How Hengst helped to keep Germany’s charity “star singers” shining
Why this global life sciences COO believes relocation to Charleston, SC, was key to achieving next-level success

Mehta added: “These frequencies – as well as the quantity – of viral shedding are markedly higher than in samples from before or after flight, or from matched healthy controls.”

He explained: “During spaceflight there is a rise in 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.” The team found infectious VZV and CMV shed in body fluids up to 30 days following return to earth.

In addition to protecting astronauts during deep-space missions, Mehta argues: “This research has tremendous clinical relevance for patients on Earth too.

“Already, our spaceflight-developed technologies for rapid viral detection in saliva have been employed in clinics and hospitals around the world.”

Also, continued virus shedding on return to earth could cause serious risks to immunocompromised or uninfected people, such as new born babies.

Related Companies

NEWSLETTER Sign up Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly roundup of the latest news and analysis, sent every Friday. The pharmaceutical industry's most comprehensive news and information delivered every month.
I consent to GlobalData UK Limited collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy
SUBSCRIBED

THANK YOU