Studies find measles virus resets immune system to 'baby-like' state

Two newly published studies have found that measles is a bigger deal than many people realize: it leaves them more susceptible to a variety of other health conditions. The issue is caused by eliminating many of the protective antibodies one develops over time, opening the door for illnesses caused by bacteria and viruses to which the patient was previously immune.

Measles vaccination rates have decreased, particularly among select populations motivated by skepticism of the science behind vaccinations in general or by ideologies that forbid their use. There's a general belief among many that measles, a highly contagious disease most commonly acquired in childhood, is "no big deal" for most people. That's not true, however.

Researchers with multiple institutions, including the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Harvard Medical School, found that the measles virus can essentially wipe the patient's immune system record, eliminating the protective antibodies that make them immune to various viruses and other pathogens. This effect was observed in both humans and ferrets.

According to the study, the immune system of someone who was infected with measles is partially reset to 'an immature baby-like state,' one that is able to respond to viruses and bacteria in a limited fashion. As a result of this, kids who contract measles are more likely to contract other illnesses they were previously immune to, such as the flu.

The measles is highly preventable with the administration of a vaccine that led to the elimination of the disease in the US and, until recently, the UK. The condition itself causes a red rash and fever; there's the potential for severe complications leading to death. Despite this, vaccination rates have decreased, particularly among certain religious collectives and anti-vaxers.