Immunosuppression after measles is known to predispose people to opportunistic infections for a period of several weeks to months. Using population-level data, we show that measles has a more prolonged effect on host resistance, extending over 2 to 3 years. We find that nonmeasles infectious disease mortality in high-income countries is tightly coupled to measles incidence at this lag, in both the pre- and post-vaccine eras. We conclude that long-term immunologic sequelae of measles drive interannual fluctuations in nonmeasles deaths. This is consistent with recent experimental work that attributes the immunosuppressive effects of measles to depletion of B and T lymphocytes. Our data provide an explanation for the long-term benefits of measles vaccination in preventing all-cause infectious disease. By preventing measles-associated immune memory loss, vaccination protects polymicrobial herd immunity.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaa3662, hdl.handle.net/1765/87260
Journal Science
Citation
Mina, M.J, Metcalf, C.J.E, de Swart, R.L, Osterhaus, A.D.M.E, & Grenfell, B.T. (2015). Long-term measles-induced immunomodulation increases overall childhood infectious disease mortality. Science, 348(6235), 694–699. doi:10.1126/science.aaa3662