Saturday May 16, 2015

Measles is More Dangerous

Woman with measles

Woman with measles (Wellcome Trust, copyright cc-by-4.0)

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One of the well known risks of measles is that the virus suppresses the immune system for several weeks, leaving those who have been infected vulnerable to other potentially dangerous infections, such as pneumonia, diarrhea and even encephalitis.

However, new research from Dr. Michael Mina, an infectious disease immunologist who trained at Princeton University, and is currently completing his medical training at Emory University, and his colleagues, suggests that this immune vulnerability could last much longer, and likely means measles indirectly causes more deaths than we'd thought.

They found that in animal models, measles provokes a kind of "immune amnesia", in which the immune system forgets how to fight infections it's previously encountered. Further epidemiological work suggested that this amnesia can last more than two years, causing roughly 50% more deaths than would have happened otherwise.

Related Links

- Paper in Science
- Princeton University release
New York Times article
- CBC/AP story