Scientists have discovered that measles virus erases part of the immune system's memory, leaving humans vulnerable to other infections, according to a study published in the journal Science Immunology.
"This study is a direct demonstration of 'immunological amnesia' in humans, whereby the system forgets how to respond to infections it has already faced," said lead study author Velislava Petrova of the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge.
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Measles virus causes cough, rashes and fever, and can cause fatal complications, including pneumonia and encephalitis, i.e. inflammation of the brain.
While measles mortality worldwide declined 84% between 2000 and 2017 from 550,100 to 89,780 deaths, the disease is still common in many developing countries, particularly in parts of Asia and Africa, according to the World Organization Health (WHO).
Vaccination against this disease is the best way to avoid it. (Photo: Diffusion)
Although it was already known that measles weakens the immunity system, even after the initial infection was overcome, the scientists did not know how this process occurs.
The researchers sequenced the antibody gene sequence of 26 children, both before and about 40-50 days after contracting the infection, and discovered that certain immunity cells that had accumulated against other diseases and were present before infection with measles, they had disappeared from the blood of the minors.
The scientists then observed this "immunological amnesia" in ferrets and found that a measles-like virus reduced the level of flu antibodies in animals that had been vaccinated against this disease.
Experiments showed that measles virus reprogrammed the immunity system to an immature state in which it can only produce a limited menu of antibodies.This means that measles hinders the immune system's response to any other infection, which increases the risk of secondary diseases.
"Our study has huge implications for vaccination and public health, as we demonstrate that measles vaccine not only protects people from measles, but also protects against other infectious diseases," said another of the study's authors, Colin. Russel, from the University of Amsterdam.
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