Measles are not a harmless childhood disease. In the worst case, an infection can be fatal. So much is known. But researchers from the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), in collaboration with researchers from the UK and the Netherlands, have now discovered that measles viruses erase part of their immunological memory over the years.

This means that affected persons are more susceptible to infections with other pathogens after surviving illness.

In Germany, measles vaccination is mandatory from 2020. Then Kita children, students and certain adults have to prove that they have been vaccinated. Not without reason – because the infections are increasing, although measles should have been eradicated long ago.

For example, European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) speaks of a resurgence of measles in Europe. According to this, five countries, among them Germany, where transmissions are still endemic – ie within the population – are responsible for this.

Measles can be fatal

Measles infections can be fatal in severe cases. In addition, the virus weakens the immune system of the patient to other pathogens. Thus, in a measles infection more often to other infections such as bacterial lung or middle ear infections.

In addition, a measles cohort study in the United Kingdom (UK) found that ten to fifteen percent of children still had signs of significant impairment of the immune system five years after a measles infection. This in turn led to an increased occurrence of further infections.

Measles vaccine also protects against other infectious diseases

Measles are anything but a reason for parties. "Measles vaccine is not only important for protecting against measles viruses, but also protects against the onset or severe progression of other infectious diseases," emphasizes Professor Klaus Cichutek, President of the Paul Ehrlich Institute. It protects immune memory, which can be severely impaired in measles infections.

According to the Paul Ehrlich Institute, the results obtained now confirm that the immune system after a measles infection has virtually forgotten which pathogens it had previously come into contact with.

For this purpose, animals (ferrets) were initially immunized against influenza (flu) and some animals infected with a mutant canine distemper virus, which is related to the measles virus. The animals infected with the canine distemper virus reportedly lost most antibodies against influenza and had a more severe disease course compared to non-virus infected animals when they were later infected with the influenza virus.

IN VIDEO | Everything you need to know about measles

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