Nasa told ‘act now’ to tackle pathogens in space | Space

“Human exploration of the solar system and beyond continues, and with that exploration, biological risk increases,” say the Commission’s authors in their May 2024 National Blueprint for Biodefense.

“Probes or humans visiting extraterrestrial environments must not introduce organisms from Earth into those environments. Conversely, they also must ensure that they do not bring back any extraterrestrial or mutated terrestrial microbes that could pose a threat to Earth’s human, animal, plant, or ecosystem health or the Moon.”

And it is not just the import and export of pathogens between worlds that the Commission is worried about. “Spaceflight sometimes reactivates viruses (e.g., herpes, Epstein-Barr, varicella-zoster, cytomegalovirus) and increases viral shedding in astronauts. A human infection in a space-like environment could pose a significant threat to everyone on board,” it notes.

 “Additionally, spaceflight severely weakens the immune systems of astronauts, making them more susceptible to terrestrial and extraterrestrial diseases”. 

Astro-biodefense aims to identify, characterise, and manage biological threats emerging at the intersection of space exploration and infectious disease, and the report calls on Nasa and the US government to “act now to address these threats before they materialise ‘’.



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