Published: Fri, November 08, 2019
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Measles 'destroys immune system memory', research finds

Measles 'destroys immune system memory', research finds

Not only does it leave a child vulnerable to a highly contagious disease, but also, for individuals who survive an initial measles attack, the virus increases their vulnerability to all kinds of other infections for months - possibly even years - after they recover.

Researchers knew that measles eliminates B cells in the immune system that form its memory.

The measles virus targets the immune system itself - it eliminates the immune cells that produce antibodies that the body uses to fight infection, was revealed in a Rotterdam study past year. During the outbreak, five of the children managed to avoid infection, but the other 77 contracted the virus.

The researchers also discovered for the first time that the measles resets the human immune system back to an immature baby-like state that can only make a limited repertoire of antibodies against disease.

Rewers said rebuilding immune memory is not easy; it could require getting re-vaccinated, or getting sick all over again.

Further work in several animal models verified these observations, confirming anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of pre-existing immune antibodies were eliminated from the body following a measles infection.

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 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.

When a person had measles, the virus infected some of the most important cells in the immune system and "wreaks havoc" during its stay, she said.

Better MMR vaccination could prevent at least 120,000 deaths directly attributed to measles, the authors of the more recent study write, but also "potentially hundreds of thousands of additional deaths attributable to lasting damage to the immune system".

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As well as solidifying the importance of administering measles vaccinations, the new research debunks the long-held myth than exposure to measles actually strengthens the immune system.

After catching the virus, children lost between 11% and 72% of their total antibody diversity, indicating that measles had partially wiped their immune memory.

The detect, revealed in Science Immunology learned the virus crippled their immunity in opposition to other infections for up to 5 years, even in the occasion that they had been exposed to them sooner than.

Using a tool called VirScan, the researchers clocked which antibodies appeared in the children's blood before and after they had measles.

"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.

"People had known that a lot of these immune cells get infected during measles, but they had no idea how much damage was being done", Elledge said.

Additionally, measles seems to wipe out immune cells that "remember" encounters with specific bacteria and viruses, according to a separate, independent team that published the Science Immunology study.

The World Health Organization estimates that measles vaccines have saved at least 21 million children's lives since the year 2000.

"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. For most of the population, this erasure is temporary, and after a few months, people recover lost antibodies. But unlike infection, inoculation does not blunt the body's ability to build antibodies against other pathogens - the Science study shows this incredible feat in action. "But kids on the edge-such as those with severe measles infection or immune deficiencies or those who are malnourished-will be in serious trouble". Utilizing information from a gathering of unvaccinated youngsters in the Netherlands, the two examinations uncovered what researchers have since a long time ago suspected: that the measles infection disables the resistant framework in a significant and enduring manner. "Think of the measles like an accident you can prevent in a parallel way". The vaccine equips the body with an arsenal of anti-measles antibodies, just as the virus itself would, he said.

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