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Measles infection devastates immune systems

Just as many countries are seeing new, widespread outbreaks of measles, researchers have now discovered why people who have been infected with measles are more susceptible to other infectious diseases. It’s worse than anyone imagined.

Some children remain immunosuppressed for up to five years after measles infection despite healthy white blood cell counts, leaving the cause of these weakened immune systems a mystery.

This phenomenon prompted researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute at the University of Amsterdam to study the antibody genes of a group of non-vaccinated children before and after a measles outbreak. They discovered that immune memory cells targeting other diseases had disappeared from children’s blood post-measles infection.

The team claims that this result is evidence of ‘immunological amnesia’, where the immune system is effectively reset to an infant-like state, having ‘forgotten’ how to respond to previously-encountered infections. This leaves people vulnerable to infections such as tuberculosis, diptheria and flu, even it they had previously been vaccinated or infected.

The study further highlights the need for the highest possible vaccination rates for measles, to protect vulnerable populations not only from measles itself but also from other dangerous infectious diseases.

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Source: Medical Xpress