Antibodies used to fight off disease might become seriously compromised during long-term space flight, putting astronauts more susceptible to illness, French researchers have discovered.
They showed that antibodies produced in space are less effective than those produced on the Earth.
The reduced effectiveness of antibodies, thereby increasing the danger posed by bacteria and viruses, makes astronauts more prone to illness, according to the researchers.
To make their discovery, Jean-Pol Frippiat at the Universite Henri Poincare-Nancy, Vandouvre-les-Nancy, France and colleagues conducted studies using three groups of amphibians.
Amphibians were chosen for the work because they use the same cellular mechanisms to produce antibodies as humans do.
The first group of amphibians was immunized in space, the second was immunized on Earth, and the third was not immunized at all.
Comparison of the antibodies produced revealed that the quality of the antibodies generated by the group immunized in space was decreased.
This suggests that spaceflight conditions alter the immune system and affect its ability to protect against infections and tumors, posing a serious risk for astronauts.
The study was published online in the FASEB Journal.