Measles virus infection diminishes preexisting antibodies that offer protection from other pathogens
Measles infections in children can destroy the immune system’s memory of prior exposure to other pathogens.
The finding — from a team that included scientists at Genentech, a Roche subsidiary — helps explain why youngsters recovering from measles are more susceptible to other infectious diseases. It also underscores the importance of vaccinating against the measles virus.
The researchers analysed blood samples from 77 unvaccinated Dutch children taken before and after a measles outbreak.
They found that the infection erased 11–73% of antibodies against other bacteria and viruses that were present before the children fell ill. Kids who were vaccinated against measles showed no such deficits in their antibody repertoires.
The researchers confirmed that measles induces a kind of immune amnesia by experimentally infecting monkeys with the virus and observing the same loss of pre-existing antibodies.
- Science 366, 599–606 (2019). doi: 10.1126/science.aay6485