Health Care

Measles wipe immune system's memory of other illnesses

Measles wipe immune system's memory of other illnesses”

Reporting Oct. 31 in Science, the researchers show that the measles virus wipes out 11 percent to 73 percent of the different antibodies that protect against viral and bacterial strains a person was previously immune to-anything from influenza to herpesvirus to bacteria that cause pneumonia and skin infections. Using data from a group of unvaccinated children in the Netherlands, both studies revealed what scientists have long suspected: that the measles virus cripples the immune system in a profound and lasting way.

Using a special blood test the researchers looked at the antibodies in children before and after natural infection with measles virus as well as in children before and after measles vaccination.

While white blood cells needed to fight infections are destroyed by measles, the cells do come back in force once the rash disappears.

Prof Mina and colleagues found those who survive measles gradually regain their previous immunity to other viruses and bacteria as they get re-exposed to them.

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

The new findings highlighted the necessity of widespread vaccination.

The measles vaccine protects the immune system's memory from being deleted by the virus in the first place - and if a patient gets measles, they may want to get booster shots for all their previous vaccines, like hepatitis and polio, to mitigate the effects of immune amnesia, said the Harvard Medical School press release.

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

This year saw the largest outbreak of measles in the US since 1994, with 1,250 cases reported as of October 3, largely driven by families choosing not to vaccinate their kids. Last month, the World Health Organization said reported cases rose 300 per cent globally in the first three months of this year compared with same period in 2018. Researchers had hypothesized that measles might cause a kind of "immune amnesia", where the body forgets the pathogens it had already seen.

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Indeed, before the measles vaccine was presented during the 1960s, an expected half of youth deaths may have been related with infections that children got subsequent to enduring an episode of measles, as indicated by a recent report distributed in Science. This means that measles makes it hard for the immune system to respond to any new infections, increasing the risk of secondary diseases. Tomasz Kula, a postdoc in Elledge's lab, had developed a technology called VirScan that enabled the team to test the antibodies in the infected children's blood against antibody targets representing most known human pathogenic viruses.

The only way to prevent measles from erasing immune memory, Mina says, is the obvious one: Prevent cases by vaccinating.

"Yet, it paradoxically leaves robust anti-measles immunity in its wake", Dr. Duane Wesemann, a professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital who was not involved in the work, wrote in a commentary accompanying the study in Science Immunology.

In 2013, de Swart's team in Rotterdam had collected blood from unvaccinated children in an Orthodox Protestant community in the Netherlands, with consent from the kids' parents. This explained the epidemiological observations of immune amnesia Mina made in 2015.

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.

"If we allow [measles] outbreaks to happen, we are knowingly creating pockets of people who are susceptible to other diseases as well", says Velislava Petrova at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Hinxton, U.K., who led one study. "With only a single drop of blood, you can measure thousands or tens of thousands of antibodies, which represent somebody's whole immunological history - the history of infectious diseases they've seen".

Mina and his team also infected macaques with measles and monitored the animals' antibodies against other pathogens for 5-months.

"This proved to be the first definitive evidence that measles affects the levels of protective antibodies themselves, providing a mechanism supporting immune amnesia", said Elledge.

The measles vaccine does not have this depletion effect, the researchers say. "Ultimately, the conclusions that can be drawn are very similar: Infection really skews the naive repertoire, and you could expect that that would have long-term, downstream consequences on immune memory", Mina says.

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