Fighting Measles-Induced Immune Amnesia: Microbial Minutes

March 19, 2024

New research explores treatment paradigms to prevent measles-induced immune suppression and how to mitigate severe infection outcomes.

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What happens when memory immune cells forget their memories? Nothing good. Without memory of past infections, the immune system is less able to fight off pathogens. The problem is that sometimes pathogens themselves are responsible for this “immune amnesia.” Measles virus—an incredibly contagious virus that is currently spreading in the U.S. and other world regions—can trigger immune amnesia. This makes people with measles vulnerable to secondary infections for several years after their measles infection has resolved. Scientists are exploring treatment paradigms to prevent measles-induced immune suppression and how to mitigate severe infection outcomes. Key takeaways and resources used in this Microbial Minutes are listed below.  

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Key Takeaways

  • Using a ferret model, scientists showed that treating animals with measles-like disease with a direct viral-acting inhibitor before, or at peak, viremia prevents primary signs of clinical disease and immune amnesia.  
  • In addition, prior infection with unrelated respiratory viruses (respiratory syncytial virus, influenza) predispose to severe morbillivirus disease.  
  • Results provide a foundation for investigation of efficacious antiviral compounds and dynamics of disease/immune amnesia in measles. 
  • Understanding patients’ infection history could be important for managing disease.

Sources

The Study

  • Cox, R.M., et al., Therapeutic mitigation of measles-like immune amnesia and exacerbated disease after prior respiratory virus infections in ferrets. Nature Communications, Feb. 8, 2024.

Additional Resources

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Author: Madeline Barron, Ph.D.

Madeline Barron, Ph.D.
Madeline Barron, Ph.D. is the Science Communications Specialist at ASM. She obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.