How measles infections can wipe away immunity to other diseases

How measles infections can wipe away immunity to other diseases

"We have known for a number of years that measles could result in increased susceptibility to other diseases, but we didn't know how or why", said Colin Russell, one of the study's co-authors and a professor of applied evolutionary biology at the University of Amsterdam.

The researchers say it could take years for a child's immune system to recover fully from the effects of measles. The discoveries additionally fill in as an update that the current year's record-breaking measles flare-ups in the USA will have waiting impacts, Schaffner included. Before measles vaccination began in the U.S.in the early 1960s, millions of Americans, many of them children, contracted the virus each year-forcing them to weather a flu-like illness and telltale skin rash, but also bestowing lifelong immunity.

An analysis of blood from 77 unvaccinated children before and after a measles outbreak swept through their Netherlands community revealed that the virus eliminated between 11 and 73 percent of the children's protective antibodies, including those from influenza to herpesvirus to bacteria that cause pneumonia and skin infections. By comparing the children's B cell data before and after measles infection, the researchers identified two indications of immune suppression from measles: incomplete restocking of the B cell pool and compromised immune memory due to depletion of B cell clones. During a measles infection, people have fewer white blood cells, which protect the body against disease, and this is seen in the clinic as a low white blood cell count.

In the most severe cases, "they're just as vulnerable as if they were infants", said study senior author Stephen Elledge, a Harvard geneticist.

It is known that measles weakens the immune system, even after the initial infection has cleared, but it has not been known how.

The research finds that measles, which kills more than 100,000 children a year around the globe, is an even more unsafe germ than previously thought.

The notorious measles virus not only makes people sick, it also sneaks inside important immune cells in the body and wipes their "memories", new research suggests. These ferrets also had worse flu symptoms when infected with flu virus after the measles-like infection.

The second team of researchers performed genetic sequencing on antibody genes from 26 Dutch children, before and then 40 to 50 days after their measles infection. Measles are easily preventable - one vaccination dose is 93% effective at preventing the disease.

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The blood used in the study came from a group of Dutch orthodox protestants who do not believe in vaccinating their children, Dr. Mina says.

"Imagine that your immunity against pathogens is like carrying around a book of photographs of criminals, and someone punched a bunch of holes in it", said Michael Mina, one of the study's primary authors, in a Harvard Medical School press release.

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. Vaccinated children, as well as unvaccinated people who didn't get measles, retained about 90% of their antibody repertoire over the same period.

The Science Immunology study released Thursday investigated whether the character of the immune system changed after measles exposure.

Dr Velislava Petrova, lead author from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Cambridge University, said: "This study is a direct demonstration in humans of "immunological amnesia", where the immune system forgets how to respond to infections encountered before". And the papers argue that this is further proof of the importance of broad use of measles vaccine. "But we had a very hard time detecting measles", he says. "Hopefully these families will be willing to continue to be involved with the researchers", he says.

Examining the diversity of the antibody repertoire, the team found that measles infections were linked with a reduction of about 20% in the overall diversity of the antibody repertoire as measured by VirScan.

"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, an educator of preventive medication and irresistible ailment at Vanderbilt University who was not associated with the work.

"This study yet again dispels the unsafe myths perpetuated by homeopaths and other "natural" healers who claim that exposure of infants to natural infection is important to "strengthen" children's immune systems", writes endocrinologist Nikolai Petrovsky from Flinders University.

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