As the number of new measles cases in the U.S. continues to grow, scientists say the virus may be more harmful than it was once considered, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.
According to the latest research, the virus may leave the immune system unable to remember and properly attack some invaders it has seen before. Making matters worse, this lack of memory in the body’s defense system could leave a person prone to more severe infections for two to three years, until the body relearns how to deter attackers.
Rik de Swart, a virologist at Erasmus MC, University Medical Center in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, said that “You recover from measles but you’ve lost part of your [immune-system] memory.”
The developing immune-system amnesia research could also help explain evidence that measles vaccination may help lower the risks of other infections, according to public-health and infectious-disease
Before vaccination became so widespread, researchers discovered that the incidence of measles strongly predicted childhood deaths from other infectious diseases two to three years later, according to the Journal.
When vaccination greatly reduced the incidence of measles, childhood deaths from other infectious diseases plunged too.
Sean O’Leary, a pediatric-infectious-disease specialist who helps draft practice recommendations for the American Academy of Pediatrics, said “Measles is a really bad disease in a lot of ways, and this is one of the ways,” he said of subsequent complications.
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