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   Oct 31

Measles virus reduces immunity against other diseases for up to three years, says study | Science & Tech News | Sky News

The body’s protection against a range of infections such as influenza, herpes and pneumonia can be compromised.

Measles is not only a serious and potentially fatal disease, but it wipes out antibodies that protect against viral and bacterial strains a person was previously immune to.

Researchers led by a team at Harvard Medical School found that between 11 and 73% of antibodies were destroyed, compromising protection against anything from influenza and herpes to bacteria that cause pneumonia and skin infections.

So, if a person had 100 different antibodies against chicken pox before contracting measles, they might emerge from having measles with only 50, cutting their chicken pox protection in half.

That protection could dip even lower if some of the antibodies lost are potent defences known as neutralising antibodies.

The study, published in the journal Science, appears to support the theory that the virus can impair the body’s immune memory, causing so-called immune amnesia.

Past research has suggested that the effects of immune amnesia could last up to three years as the body repairs its defences by creating new antibodies.

The new report underlines the importance of being vaccinated against measles, not only to protect against the virus itself, but against a range of diseases.

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Senior author Professor Stephen Elledge said: “The threat measles poses to people is much greater than we previously imagined.

“We now understand the mechanism is a prolonged danger due to erasure of the immune memory, demonstrating that the measles vaccine is of even greater benefit than we knew.”

The researchers said doctors may want to consider strengthening the immunity of patients recovering from measles infection with a round of booster shots of all previous routine vaccines, such as hepatitis and polio.

The new research highlights the importance of vaccination

“Revaccination following measles could help to mitigate long-term suffering that might stem from immune amnesia and the increased susceptibility to other infections,” the authors said.

Last week the National Audit Office found that in England only 86.45% of children up to the age of five are having both doses required of the MMR jab which protects them against measles, mumps and rubella.

That is way below the 95% needed to produce so-called herd immunity, which arises when a high percentage of the population is protected through vaccination against a virus or bacteria, making it difficult for a disease to spread because there are so few people susceptible to infection.

Source: Sky News

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