NASA has awarded researchers at the University of Florida $80,000 to study how the herpes virus mutates during a spaceflight. This project has been named “Effect of Spaceflight on Herpes Virus Genome Stability and Diversity.”
NASA said, “The goal of this study will be to determine the changes in the genomic and mutational diversity that is present in the Herpes virus airdrome present in astronaut saliva and urine samples collected before, during, and after space flight.”
According to sources, this study would focus on four variants of the herpes virus – herpes simplex virus, Vermicelli infection, herpes zoster and Epstein – Barr virus. According to findings of the initial studies, space flights increase the frequency as well as the duration of herpes virus reactivation, which in turn makes for a feasible environment for these replicating and reactivating viruses to mutate.
Researchers would collect saliva as well as urine samples from astronauts involved in the study before and after the space flight. A ‘deep sequence analysis’ would be conducted on these samples before, during and after the astronauts return from the mission. In the end, all the data would be compiled in order to determine the diversity of herpes viruses before, during and after the space flight. Using this data, researchers would then be able to determine the mutation frequency in the samples.
It was back in 2012 that NASA has published an article explaining why astronauts suffer from shingles on a spaceflight. Researchers have concluded that there are eight types of herpes viruses in the human body and all they need to do is study the appearance of the virus present in body fluids. The study is underway and is expected to conclude by May 2018. However, there has been no news of the results published yet.