Two detailed studies of blood from unvaccinated Dutch children who contracted measles now reveal how such infections can also compromise the immune system for months or years afterward, causing the body to "forget" immunity it had developed to other pathogens in the past. And if these are the consequences of measles in a high-income nation where death from the virus is rare, it's even more important this research be conducted in places where the disease is commonplace, he says.
The research begins to explainsomething surprising that happened when the measles vaccine was introduced in the U.S.in the 1960s. The vaccine's emergence cut measles cases by 80% between 2000 and 2017 and is credited with saving 21.1 million lives. "So to me this is a direct refutation of people who use the "natural infection is better" argument about why they don't want to vaccinate".
Each time you get a cold or an infection, your body forms antibodies to fight these bugs. However, after a few weeks, the patient's white blood cell count goes back up to previous levels and they have recovered from the measles, yet they are still much more susceptible to other infectious diseases.
The research finds that measles, which kills more than 100,000 children a year around the globe, is an even more risky germ than previously thought. The researchers sequenced the genes of immune memory cells and found that after recovering from measles, the children's immune system had a different landscape of certain types of cells.
The "Mina" study of 77 children, found that unvaccinated children who had measles lost between 11 and 73 per cent of their antibody repertoire two months after infection. "Babies are more vulnerable to infections because their immune system is still maturing".
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"Every time we see a pathogen, our immune system recognizes this pathogen, builds immunity to it and then stores it in the form of immune memory", explains Velislava Petrova, a postdoctoral fellow in immunogenetics at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom and first author of the report published in Science Immunology. In other words, while measles survivors struggle to defend themselves against other pathogens, their bodies can fend off a repeat attack by the measles virus itself.
Measles is a risky virus, and before the introduction of the vaccine, it infected 3 to 4 million children, killing between 400 and 500 annually in the United States.
The research from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, University of Amsterdam checked out 26 unvaccinated kids sooner than and after catching measles.
The researchers confirmed that finding by infecting flu-vaccinated ferrets with a measles-like illness. "Measles is not as harmless of a disease as many people think". Basically, the measles virus doesn't just delete immune memory-it makes it harder for the immune system to respond to new pathogens in the future.
"You have this really rapid [antibody] decline with measles, and then a slow increase", he said.
Families in communities with low vaccination rates agreed to provide blood samples, allowing researchers to observe the effects of a measles infection on non-vaccinated people. In some children the effect is so strong it is similar to being given powerful immunosuppressive drugs. As a result, some Americans still view measles as relatively harmless-which, in addition to a unsafe uprising of anti-vaccine sentiment, has led some parents to decline shots for their children, contributing to a resurgence of preventable illness in the USA and overseas. Not only could they contract measles and suffer directly from the virus but could also sustain measles-included damages to their immunity. This new research clearly points out that your immune system is debilitated by measles and implies that the measles vaccine is precious than previously recognized. These findings further strengthen the vital role the MMR vaccine plays in public health and protecting us from deadly disease. "It is yet another reminder of how important vaccines are as a vital resource in eliminating infectious disease".
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