Welcome back, taikonauts! But wait, take a quarantine first

Wang Qingchu
Unlikely they caught a virus, but their immune system might have changed after the long flight, said an Astronaut Center of China official.
Wang Qingchu
SSI ļʱ

Three Chinese taikonauts will be quarantined on arrival back to Earth from a long "business trip" as their immunity might have been compromised during their time in space, an official said.

"It's unlikely that they got infected with some virus during their flight. But their immune system might have changed slightly after a long period of flight," said Huang Weifen, deputy chief designer at the Astronaut Center of China, in an interview with China Central Television today.

"The quarantine is intended to keep them safe and sound," Huang added.

The complex and stressful tasks undertaken by taikonauts can have varying degrees of impact on their physiology and psychology, and when this impact is reflected back to the human brain, it rapidly activates two types of stress hormones in the body, China Science and Technology Museum said.

These two types of hormones tend to bind to the hormone receptors of immune cells and thus reduce the cells' functions, leading to a decrease in human immunity.

Secondly, under the influence of the space microgravity environment, the overall structure of T lymphocytes, which are closely related to the human immune function, will change and become less active, making the taikonauts vulnerable to viruses.

Moreover, in the space radiation environment, some microorganisms may also mutate, becoming stronger variants.

During the quarantine, medical staff will do a thorough examination and health assessment of their bodies to help the taikonauts' physical indicators return to pre-flight status as soon as possible.

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