Measles causes a transient immune suppression, leading to increased susceptibility to opportunistic infections. In experimentally infected non-human primates (NHPs) measles virus (MV) infects and depletes pre-existing memory lymphocytes, causing immune amnesia. A measles outbreak in the Dutch Orthodox Protestant community provided a unique opportunity to study the pathogenesis of measles immune suppression in unvaccinated children. In peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of prodromal measles patients, we detected MV-infected memory CD4+ and CD8+ T cells and naive and memory B cells at similar levels as those observed in NHPs. In paired PBMC collected before and after measles we found reduced frequencies of circulating memory B cells and increased frequencies of regulatory T cells and transitional B cells after measles. These data support our immune amnesia hypothesis and offer an explanation for the previously observed long-term effects of measles on host resistance. This study emphasises the importance of maintaining high measles vaccination coverage.

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Journal Nature Communications
Laksono, B.M, de Vries, R.D, Verbugh, R.J, Visser, E, de Jong, A. (Alwin), Fraaij, P.L.A, … de Swart, R.L. (2018). Studies into the mechanism of measles-associated immune suppression during a measles outbreak in the Netherlands. Nature Communications, 9(1). doi:10.1038/s41467-018-07515-0