Simply Being In Space Is Triggering Herpes In Astronauts

Now look. I’m by no means opposed to scientific progress. I completely understand people who think that humanity’s future lies among the stars. I just happen to personally believe space is evil and going up there is tantamount to spitting in the face of God.

Thankfully, there’s some new research which backs up my intuition that outer space is a void of raw evil and not to be trusted. According to new NASA research, the herpes virus reactivates in more than half of astronauts aboard space shuttles and the International Space Station.

Though symptoms only display in a small portion of those affected, scientists worry that this trend could present issues on longterm space flights, like ones to Mars and beyond.

A number of reasons are provided by the study for why it might be the case, including the effects of microgravity and the general stressors of being out in freaking space. Senior author Satish K. Mehta at the Johnson Space Center points to general immune system repression:

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.

So obviously this is a case of existing and dormant herpes virus being activated by the immunosuppressive effects of being in space. Not specifically getting some kind of bizarre space herpes from an alien, which is what I vaguely hoped it would be when I read the study. A man can dream!

The press release confirms that the next steps are to find a way to deal with countermeasures for viral reactivation before sending people on longer spaceflights. That’ll be tough – vaccination only works on the VZV variant, which is responsible for chickenpox and shingles.

But there you go. If you go to space, expect herpes to activate. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!