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Varicella Zoster Virus Shedding After Antiviral Drug (Valacyclovir) Treatment in Antarctic Expeditioners (Anti_Viral)
Principal Investigator
Research Area:
Biomedical countermeasures
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Homo sapiens Species: Human

Previous spaceflight studies indicate that reactivation of varicella zoster virus (VZV), particularly during longer duration spaceflights, can potentially lead to clinical disease including zoster, chronic neuropathic pain, vision loss, stroke, and cognitive impairment. Continued viral shedding after spaceflight may cause clinical disease in crew contacts including uninfected or immunocompromised individuals, as well as newborn infants. It is essential to develop countermeasures to prevent VZV reactivation during spaceflight to ensure the health of the crew, as well as the health of their contacts upon return.

In this investigation, VZV shedding in Antarctic expeditioners having patterns of VZV DNA shedding in saliva similar to patterns in astronauts will be studied. Investigators hypothesize that prophylactic administration of 1 gram daily of the antiviral drug valacyclovir to the Antarctic expeditioners will significantly reduce salivary shedding of VZV compared to placebo controls. Measures of stress and immune dysregulation should remain unaltered.

Countermeasure efficacy of valacyclovir will be determined by measuring VZV reactivation and shedding in saliva as well as measuring the physiological stress biomarkers (cortisol, DHEA, and salivary amylase) and immune markers (inflammatory cytokines) before, during, and after the winter-over period.

Specific aims are to:

  1. Study the effect of antiviral drugs on the reactivation and shedding of VZV in the saliva of Antarctic expeditioners before, during, and after winter-over.
  2. Study the effect of antiviral drugs on stress hormones and immune biomarkers (inflammatory cytokines, etc.) in the saliva of Antarctic expeditioners before, during, and after winter-over

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Virus shedding

Data Information
Data Availability
Archiving in progress. Data is not yet available for this experiment.

Amylase, salivary
Cortisol, salivary
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), salivary
Epstein - Barr virus (EBV) DNA, salivary
Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) DNA, salivary
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Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
Ground 05/01/2009 In Progress

Human Research Program (HRP) Human Research Roadmap (HRR) Information
Crew health and performance is critical to successful human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. The Human Research Program (HRP) investigates and mitigates the highest risks to human health and performance, providing essential countermeasures and technologies for human space exploration. Risks include physiological and performance effects from hazards such as radiation, altered gravity, and hostile environments, as well as unique challenges in medical support, human factors, and behavioral health support. The HRP utilizes an Integrated Research Plan (IRP) to identify the approach and research activities planned to address these risks, which are assigned to specific Elements within the program. The Human Research Roadmap is the web-based tool for communicating the IRP content.

The Human Research Roadmap is located at:

+ Click here for information of how this experiment is contributing to the HRP's path for risk reduction.

Additional Information
Managing NASA Center
Johnson Space Center (JSC)
Responsible NASA Representative
Institutional Support
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Proposal Date
Proposal Source
Internal Project