Published: Fri, November 08, 2019
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Measles virus wipes part of the immune system's memory

Measles virus wipes part of the immune system's memory

The measles virus, which has so great an influence on the immune system. Epidemiological studies have linked measles infections with higher chances of mortality in subsequent years.

'Many of the deaths attributable to measles virus are caused by secondary infections because the virus infects and functionally impairs immune cells, ' the researchers said in Science. For the new study, Elledge's group used VirScan to measure antibodies before and two months after infection in 77 children from de Swart's samples who'd contracted the disease. During the Science study, some children quickly regained new antibodies to fight off staph infections, influenza and adenoviruses, the family of viruses that cause sore throats and pneumonia.

It's possible to rebuild someone's suite of antibodies against specific bacteria and viruses by exposing them to those pathogens again, says Stephen Elledge, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, and a co-author of the Science study.

It is known that measles weakens the immune system, even after the initial infection has cleared, but it has not been known how. Children who skip the measles vaccine, known as MMR, and become infected with measles may actually need to be revaccinated for previous diseases, he says.

The findings help to explain why children often catch other infectious diseases after having measles, and underscore the dangers of growing resistance to childhood vaccination in some countries, according to two studies published simultaneously. "The measles virus is like an accident for your immune system".

The damage isn't to the immune system itself - it is still capable of producing antibodies to protect against threats it encounters after measles infection. These effects are more severe in people that already have more vulnerable immune systems, like malnourished children or those with preexisting immune deficiencies.

"The immune effect for measles can last for years and all of this really just goes to underscore the importance of measles vaccination because all of these things are entirely preventable just by getting your kids vaccinated", Russell said.

These recent outbreaks have been put down to the growth of the anti-vaccination movement, which has spread via social media and discourages parents from immunizing their children against measles and other diseases.

The notorious measles infection not just makes individuals debilitated, it likewise sneaks inside significant safe cells in the body and wipes their "memories", new research recommends.

"What this has done is document exactly how that immunosuppression takes place, and gives us a sense of how broad that immunosuppression can be", said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious disease at Vanderbilt University who was not involved in the work.


'When people get an infection, their immune system creates antibodies to fight it off'.

"Unlike a lot of people who choose not to vaccinate in the United States, in that community they were very willing to participate in science", he says.

Amnesia, meaning that measles erases the body's memory of enemies, leaving fewer defenses - antibodies - against germs it has battled before.

A two-dose vaccine has helped to slash measles cases since 2000, saving an estimated 21.1 million lives between 2000 and 2017, World Health Organization said.

The virus that causes measles is one of the most contagious viruses scientists have ever seen.

The study was published simultaneously with a paper by a separate team in Science Immunology that reached complementary conclusions by measuring changes in B cells caused by the measles virus.

Over the last decade, evidence has mounted that the measles vaccine protects in not one but two ways: Not only does it prevent the well-known acute illness with spots and fever that frequently sends children to the hospital, but it also appears to protect from other infections over the long term.

"This study is a direct demonstration in humans of "immunological amnesia", where the immune system forgets how to respond to infections encountered before". Some of the authors also serve as advisers to vaccine makers. The measles vaccine is a particular target of the anti-vax movement.

Researchers then tested this "immunological amnesia" directly in ferrets, showing that infection with a measles-like virus reduced the level of flu antibodies in ferrets that had been previously vaccinated against flu. "We were trying to figure out how VirScan worked with measles", Elledge says.

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