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Measles vaccine prevents infectious diseases

Friday May 8th, 2015

The measles vaccination takes advantage of people’s immune systems and can help to prevent other infectious diseases, a new study has revealed.

Scientists believe that this “herd protection” helps to explain why the introduction of measles vaccines prevented more deaths than had been expected.

The findings come from analysis by Michael Mina, of Princeton University, Calif., USA, and colleagues who examined data from before and after the mass measles vaccination programmes in England, Wales, the USA, and Denmark.

Their findings show that measles damages the immune system’s memory, which means it “forgets” how to fight off a wide range of bacterial invaders for up to three years.

It means those who have recovered from the measles virus remain vulnerable to opportunistic pathogens, according to Mina, whose study is published in Science.

The team’s population-level analysis reveals a correlation between measles incidence and deaths that occur from other infectious diseases in the two to three years following a measles infection, which suggests that measles vaccinations have played a primary role in reducing mortality from other infectious diseases in all of the high-income countries studied.

The team’s findings imply that measles vaccines keep the immune system’s memory intact, which provides “herd protection” against non-measles infections.

Mina MJ, Metcalf CJE et al. Long-term measles-induced immunomodulation increases overall childhood infectious disease mortality. Science 7 May 2015. [abstract]

Tags: Child Health | Flu & Viruses | North America | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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