Measles Weakens the Immune System for Years

By K. N. Smith | May 7, 2015 1:00 pm

measles

The outbreak of measles that originated at Disneyland earlier this year drew lots of attention to gaps in vaccination for the disease. More than 100 people were infected before the outbreak was brought under control in April.

However, the effects of measles may be with those individuals for quite some time. A new study finds that the measles virus erases the immune system’s memory, leaving patients vulnerable to other infectious diseases for up to three years afterward.

And researchers think that’s why the advent of vaccination against measles also seemed to reduce childhood deaths from other infectious diseases. It appears that vaccination protects against not just the measles virus, but also many other diseases.

Immune Amnesia

When the measles virus strikes, it binds to, and then destroys, immune system cells called B-cells and T-cells. Both types of cells are vital to the body’s defense against disease. They do this by “remembering” past infections. The body carries around a set of B-cells and T-cells to match every infection it has ever encountered.

After a measles infection, it takes time for these cells to repopulate. Researchers have known that measles’ toll on these cells weakens patients’ immune defenses, but they thought that vulnerability only lasted for a few weeks.

However, in a 2012 study, researchers noticed that this wasn’t true in macaque monkeys. Monkeys who had measles and recovered started producing new B-cells and T-cells about a month later. But the new cells only had memory for the measles virus, not for any of the other infections the monkeys had been exposed to previously. The monkeys’ immune systems had amnesia, and it left them vulnerable to infectious diseases that otherwise might not have been a problem.

Decades of Data

Princeton researcher Michael J. Mina and his colleagues wondered if the same thing would happen to humans who get measles. To test this, the researchers compared measles infection rates to the rate of deaths from other infectious diseases each year, from the decades before and the decades after measles vaccination became common, in England, Wales, the U.S., and Denmark.

Deaths from other infections did, in fact, correlate with the number of measles cases in each year. In years with fewer cases of measles, fewer children died from other infections, and vice versa.

But, more interestingly, they found that measles outbreaks increased death rates for two to three years after their appearance. In fact measles infection more strongly predicted deaths 28 months later than deaths that same year, the researchers report this week in Science.

“When a child gets infected with measles, it has been known for decades that during the weeks and months following infection the child is at very high risk of other infections. Our work further suggests that that elevated risk may last for years, or as long as it takes to retrain the immune system,” said Mina.

“Thus it is incredibly important for parents to understand the true danger of measles and to let go of any idea that measles is a benign infection,” he added.

Importance of Vaccines

The findings underscore the importance of the measles vaccine. If measles increases the rate of other infectious disease, then removing measles from the population should decrease the rate of other infectious diseases – and that’s exactly what’s seen in the historical record.

As countries have introduced national measles vaccination campaigns, childhood mortality from all infectious diseases, not just measles, dropped by 50 percent in those countries. In the U.S., prior to measles vaccination in the mid-1960s, 15 children in every 100,000 died of infectious diseases (not counting measles). After the vaccine eradicated measles from the population, that death rate dropped to 6 children in every 100,000.

“When the secondary effects on other infectious disease mortality is taken into account, it appears that the measles vaccine is amongst the – if not the – single greatest public health intervention worldwide, resulting in the largest reduction in childhood deaths perhaps except for clean water and the whole field of antibiotic therapy,” said Mina.

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  • sciguybm

    Wait! You forgot to say “Save the Children!” a few dozen times. You’ll never incite mass rioting if you don’t make it seem like it is a racist or bias plot against someone…. like The Children!
    what a load of bullsh…….

    • Steve Holmes

      So your not anti-science, you’re pro-myth?

      • sciguybm

        well, thanks for the comment of yet another uneducated commoner whose entire view of “science” is from google….. whoa.
        What, Ds for HS science classes? Or did you evade them entirely?

        • Steve Holmes

          I’m assuming HS stands for high school, not herpes simplex. And my degree is bigger than your degree! LOL what a grumpy troll!

          • sciguybm

            if your degree was bigger than my degree (PhD), then you would understand science and understand what impact these “vaccines” have on children and the embryos of our future and you’d be heartily agreeing with me. So wander into extinction and leave the fight for the future of the world to those who understand what is at stake.

          • Steve Holmes

            Hahahaha! Good one! PhD! Lol
            The only PhD you possess is PhukDup. Lol
            A delusional grumpy troll.

          • sciguybm

            CN, PhD Nutrition. Cancer clinical trials.
            Sorry bub; small people like you never admit when they’re wrong so see ya later moron.

          • kellymbray

            Nobody believes you. You post so much derp you sound like you failed to pass basic biology. The *Toxins* gambit etc. Use your real name and company.

          • Steve Holmes

            Lol. A mendacious delusional grumpy troll. My advice: drop the assertions of intelligence sciguy bowel movement.

    • kellymbray

      Have you read the paper? Do you have specific objection to any part of the study?

      • sciguybm

        Virtually all of the study was funded by pharmaceutical institutions; so I have an objection to the entire worthless ranting’s of profit-hungry corporations: so yeah I guess I do have an objection.

        • Dune Rat

          You have proof of this? Because the published funding sources are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the US Department of Homeland Security, and the US National Institutes of Health. Last i checked, exactly none of those are pharmaceutical companies.

          And that’s ignoring the fact that nothing you have said is actually an objection to any of the science involved.

          • sciguybm

            What part of “funded by pharmaceutical industry” don’t you get? What part of Gates is tied to monies from both GMO and pharmaceutica didn’t you bother to look into?
            What part of those journals getting money from pharmaceutica do you not understand?
            What part of Homeland Security is a scientific research organization? The part where they award contracts to pharmaceutical support groups?
            What part of the high school education you probably received didn’t prepare you to have an analytical eye and actually investigate before you open your pie-hole?
            Oh, right, the SOL part where you were indoctrinated not educated.
            Look: it is your God given right to be moronic and ignore science because its easier for you and doesn’t take a minute from your “busy” schedule.
            Cool: vaccinate your kids, we’ll do what is intelligent for ours.
            Just sheep along…nothing to be afraid of here!

          • AutismDadd

            OH WOW…how naive…

        • kellymbray

          Clueless as usual.

          “”This
          work is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Science
          and Technology Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security
          [contract HSHQDC-12-C-00058 (B.T.G. and C.J.E.M.)], and the RAPIDD
          program of the Science and Technology Directorate of the Department of
          Homeland Security and the Fogarty International Center, National
          Institutes of Health (C.J.E.M. and B.T.G).”

          • sciguybm

            And you say I’m clueless??? What part of “funded by pharmaceutical industry” don’t you get? What part of Gates is tied to monies from both GMO and pharmaceutica didn’t you bother to look into?
            What part of those journals getting money from pharmaceutica do you not understand?
            What part of Homeland Security is a scientific research organization? The part where they award contracts to pharmaceutical support groups?
            What part of the high school education you probably received didn’t prepare you to have an analytical eye and actually investigate before you open your pie-hole?
            Oh, right, the SOL part where you were indoctrinated not educated.
            Look: it is your God given right to be moronic and ignore science because its easier for you and doesn’t take a minute from your “busy” schedule.
            Cool: vaccinate your kids, we’ll do what is intelligent for ours.
            Just sheep along…nothing to be afraid of here!

          • Steve Holmes

            The booze is rotting your brain. I’m sorry you were fired from your teaching position for incompetence, but it’s not our fault. Get over it! you’re a loser.

          • sciguybm

            hmmm, coming from a moron; that’s priceless!

          • Dune Rat

            Yes, we did indeed say you were clueless. Because you are. QED.

          • sciguybm

            Ohhhhhhhh.

        • Sue

          Here here

        • Barrada Nicto

          It is a little troubling that vaccine makers have been shielded from all liability by Federal Law. So if their future vaccines are ineffective or dangerous they have no motivation to fix or even test them in the first place.
          Scary.

          • Dale

            That liability thing is absolute fact and cannot be debated. That alone should raise eyebrows, but people are so stupid. We live in a world full of corruption and scientific fraud. Tribes and people in the past were very healthy, much more healthy than we are now and they didn’t get vaccines or have commercial agriculture.

          • John Cobb

            Without the liability guarantees, the vaccine makers would not make the vaccines at all. A 90% effective vaccine is good for the population that receives it, yet without liability protection, the companies likely would not manufacture it. Sure, the vaccines is not perfect, and some may have adverse effects in a small population, but that does not mean it won’t help the vast majority of the population. And one thing about a vaccine that is only about 90% effective: it still is very good, because many infectious diseases will not propagate if there is a 90% herd immunity. That 90% basically protects the 10% that can’t become immune for various reasons.

            If you would read about how vaccines are actually developed and then produced, you’d learn that there is no perfect vaccine, and there probably can never be one. So scientists develop the best one they can, and that is used to help prevent illnesses and death. But research continues, and as more knowledge is obtained, the vaccines are modified and made better.

            Dale: you don’t really know how healthy tribes were in the past. It is known that the life expectancy of the US in the 1900 was 46/48 M/F, before vaccines became common.It is now 73/79 M/F. So people were more healthy in the past than now? I’m sure in 1600, life expectancy was even lower than in 1900. So you spew out trash with no data behind it.

  • bpatient

    This study shows that vaccination with MMR not only prevents measles, mumps and rubella, it–by preventing years-long measles measles virus-associated immune suppression–also protects against the dangers of other diseases. [Mina M et al. Long-term measles-induced immunomodulation increases overall childhood infectious disease mortality. Science. 8 May 2015: 694-699.]

    Moreover, the evidence shows not only that MMR does not cause ASD, in recent years the vaccine has _prevented_ many thousands of cases of autism in the US by protecting against congenital rubella syndrome. [Berger BE et al. Congenital rubella syndrome and autism spectrum disorder prevented by rubella vaccination–United States, 2001-2010. BMC Public Health. 2011 May 19;11:340]

    • Neo

      Those are nothing but lies!
      Vaccine kill and damages.
      No vaccine helps anyone’s immune.
      If it wasn’t for your grand parents natural immunity, you wouldn’t be here.
      Go get yourself tested to what immunity you have from any vaccine.
      Lol….you won’t have any!!

      • Jason Max

        Sounds like you’ve studied this stuff…

    • AutismDadd

      Hilarious. The one thing you can expect from vaccine promoters is to say something similar but contrary to what Vaccine Safety Advocates say. Imagine, they claim MMR has prevented THOUSANDS of cases of autism. That folks is without evidence and purely speculation, supposition and simple dishonesty. Yet sheeple will take that bogus statement and spread it through the forums.

      • Jason Max

        You are wrong and you’re hurting people. Please stop. Spreading dangerous ignorance is indefensible. You should be ashamed of yourself.

        • AutismDadd

          Take your own advice

          • Jason Max

            I’m a scientist. Are you? I have zero personal or financial connection to this issue (I do plant biology, not people), so I’m able to consider the facts dispassionately. Are you?

            Clearly you’re a zealot, and I won’t convince you. But to the rational people who read this thread, who do you think is more likely to be spreading misinformation, the objective person with scientific training, or the biased activist without scientific training?

          • AutismDadd

            STRAW MAN

          • Jason Max

            That’s not actually a straw man. I see in your comment history that you like to use that term. You should probably take a philosophy class before you do so again if you don’t want to look ignorant.

            And by the way, to neutral readers, when one person makes a reasonable point, and the other refuses to respond substantively, and instead just writes “STRAW MAN” in all caps, it definitely looks like the latter person just admitted defeat. If you had something sincere to say you would have, but you went cheap. That does a better job revealing how you’re full of it than anything I could have written. So, thanks for the cheap rhetoric, you made my point for me!

            (Also, you misspelled Dad. Only one “d”)

          • AutismDadd

            Another STRAW MAN And I added a d when another person impersonated me. Besides who cares how its spelled unless you are a whiner.

          • Jason Max

            Still not a straw man: “an intentionally misrepresented proposition that is set up because it is easier to defeat than an opponent’s real argument.”

            That’s not what’s going on here. I don’t need to create an argument to defeat you, because logic can’t defeat illogic. I’m pointing out that you’re an uneducated, biased, zealot with an agenda, and that people shouldn’t trust you. You know it’s true, so you ignore that point and write stuff you don’t understand in all caps.

            Keep it up, people are paying attention and you look like a fool. You’re a better advocate for vaccines than I am. Nobody wants to agree with ignorant zealots who write in all caps.

          • AutismDadd

            Hardly. They are seeing you expose yourself as an emotional regurgitating pharma machine who is inflexible and dogmatic.

          • Jason Max

            I have nothing to do with pharma. I’m a plant physiologist. My funding comes primarily from the USFS. I just understand science and care about public health.

          • AutismDadd

            So do Vaccine Safety Advocates

  • Barbara Holtzman

    I had influenza, conjunctivitis twice, and bad colds most of kindergarten. I got measles, I think it was November of first grade. After that, I don’t think I was in school as much as I was out of it. I got rubella and mumps, several bouts of conjunctivitis, and of course, annual influenza. I was mostly out of school until the third grade. Most mothers were stay-at-home like mine back then. Our society would fall apart without vaccinations now.

  • Jim Hall

    Well, never mind that Rubeola (Red Measles) can weaken a child’s immune system for years, worse yet, kill him or her. Jenny McCarthy, the playboy centerfold, has decided based on her own knowledge that the MMR vaccine causes autism. WOW! Is there any limit to the stupidity?

    • Barrada Nicto

      Wasn’t MMR the one that actually stated in its paperwork that autism was a possible complication? I’m pretty sure one of them said that.

      • Jim Hall

        “Pretty sure, eh?” Well, I know for a fact that numerous studies published in well regarded scientific periodicals have shown that Congenital Rubella Syndrome has a pronounced association with Autism, and probably a causitive association.

        • Barrada Nicto

          Your ‘know for a fact’ is no better than my ‘pretty sure’, without references.
          How do you feel about vaccine manufacturers being absolved from all liability by Congress and the courts? (That’s easily Google-able, btw.)
          Some vaccines are very good. Some newer ones a bit questionable. But a legal protection from need to make them any better is troubling.

          • Jason Max

            How do you feel about congress being in the pocket of big business generally? Congress is corrupt, and serves the interest of business. That doesn’t mean there’s a conspiracy about vaccines–the conspiracy is about oligarchs and capitalism. Congress has passed a bunch of laws to protect specific industries–all that proves is that congress is in the pocket of big business, it has nothing to do with vaccines. They’ve also shielded gun makers from liability, and they protect defense contractors with no-bid contracts…none of this is about “hiding truth”. It’s just about helping other rich people get richer.

        • Dale

          Them scientific journals were hi-jacked long ago. Some real science gets through, but scientific fraud has been going on for a long time now.

          • Jason Max

            The nice thing about science (I’m actually a scientist) is that you can’t really get away with fraud, at least for long. Because scientific results are testable and repeatable, fraud (like, for example Andrew Wakefield’s “research” that was funded by trail lawyers) is discovered and corrected.

            If you think the journals are “hi-jacked” and publishing fraudulent findings, I’m sure you can point to some actual, real-world, results that contradict the data? Can you show me any data that contradict the fact that vaccines save millions of lives every year? I’ll wait…

          • AutismDadd

            Yet many have repeated and supported Wakefield and you lie by ommission…

          • sabelmouse

            who pays, who profits?

          • AutismDadd

            Pharma pays, Jason profits

  • Ali

    the measles virus is known to have wide ranging immune interactions.The effect on the pancreas and the peripheral nerves can be explained as an autoimmune trigger being activated by the virus.Measles affected individuals are also more prone to developing Acute infectious demyelinating polyneuropathy/GBS.
    unfortunately the mass vaccination in lesser dev countries has not been followed by nutritional interventions..

  • George

    My dad had measles as a child, and has had low blood platelets for years. He has been trying to find out why his immune system is continuing to be low in this way. I wonder if this would have anything to do with it???

    • Sue

      I had measles as a child so did mu husband.. and we are fine.. it is just propaganda……

      • Sonja Henie-Spinning Jenny!

        Low platelets is a complication of measles.

      • Barrada Nicto

        Everyone is different. They only accept large sample sizes in good scientific research. Effects in small sample sizes may be interesting, but usually only accepted as an indication that more research is needed.

      • John Cobb

        A sample of two is not a very representative sample as to whether having measles or not is a problem. Many people don’t have lasting effects, but there is a substantial percentage who do. You were just lucky.

    • Sonja Henie-Spinning Jenny!

      The best anyone could tell you over the internet is “possibly”. That is a side effect of measles. A doctor would be the person to consult.

    • sabelmouse

      i got anemia from the smallpox vaccine. did he have that?

    • Mike Stevens

      Low platelets is not a sign of a “low” immune system, but it could be a result of an autoimmune phenomenon, where antibodies are produced against platelets and bind to them. They are then recognised by the spleen as needing to be “taken out” of the circulation.
      The ITP (immune thrombocytopenia) caused by measles is usually temporary, so this points to a more long standing problem likely of a different origin.

  • Sheri Lowe

    The mortality rate has dropped in an extremely significant way since the onset of vaccinations. Those opposed should consider that before letting their paranoid and uninformed nastiness lash out for all the world to see. If they were right mortality rates would be rising which it is not. So…where is your “vacinations aren’t safe” proof … ? They are nowhere… just a few quacks without a brain riling up those prone to conspiracy theories.

  • bev

    Where are the scientific journal links to all these claims?

  • Neo

    I remember this article, it’s nothing but full of Pharma lies..
    Now repeat after me.
    Vaccines have never saved anyone and never eradicated anything, except destroyed thousands upon thousands of children s lives !

  • AutismDadd

    This gambit is parroted and parroted. Anyone have any actual evidence what this “weakened immune system” results in? And why does this story MIMIC what Vaccine Safety Advocates say about Vaccines?

  • AutismDadd

    Nothing but MMR marketing. Studies based on correlation

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