Measles virus (MV) is being considered for global eradication, which would likely reduce compliance with MV vaccination. As a result, children will grow up without MV-specific immunity, creating a potential niche for closely related animal morbilliviruses such as canine distemper virus (CDV). Natural CDV infection causing clinical signs has never been reported in humans, but recent outbreaks in captive macaques have shown that CDV can cause disease in primates. We studied the virulence and tropism of recombinant CDV expressing enhanced green fluorescent protein in naive and measles-vaccinated cynomolgus macaques. In naive animals CDV caused viremia and fever and predominantly infected CD150+ lymphocytes and dendritic cells. Virus was reisolated from the upper and lower respiratory tracts, but infection of epithelial or neuronal cells was not detectable at the time points examined, and the infections were self-limiting. This demonstrates that CDV readily infects nonhuman primates but suggests that additional mutations are necessary to achieve full virulence in nonnatural hosts. Partial protection against CDV was observed in measles-vaccinated macaques, as demonstrated by accelerated control of virus replication and limited shedding from the upper respiratory tract. While neither CDV infection nor MV vaccination induced detectable cross-reactive neutralizing antibodies, MV-specific neutralizing antibody levels of MV-vaccinated macaques were boosted by CDV challenge infection, suggesting that cross-reactive VN epitopes exist. Rapid increases in white blood cell counts in MV-vaccinated macaques following CDV challenge suggested that cross-reactive cellular immune responses were also present. This study demonstrates that zoonotic morbillivirus infections can be controlled by measles vaccination.

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Journal Journal of Virology
de Vries, R.D, Ludlow, M, Verbugh, R.J, van Amerongen, G, Yüksel, S, Nguyen, D.T, … de Swart, R.L. (2014). Measles vaccination of nonhuman primates provides partial protection against infection with canine distemper virus. Journal of Virology, 88(8), 4423–4433. doi:10.1128/JVI.03676-13