The childhood disease measles causes long-term damage to the immune system which makes patients more vulnerable to other diseases, according to new research which used information gleaned from orthodox Dutch Protestants who don’t vaccinate their children.
The research showed that measles eliminated between 11% and 73% of children’s protective antibodies, the Guardian reported. The MMR vaccine itself did not produce suppress the children’s immunity.
‘Many of the deaths attributable to measles virus are caused by secondary infections because the virus infects and functionally impairs immune cells,’ the researchers said in Science.
‘Whether measles infection causes long-term damage to immune memory has been unclear. This question has become increasingly important given the resurgence in measles epidemics worldwide.’
Using a special blood test the researchers looked at the antibodies in children before and after natural infection with measles virus as well as in children before and after measles vaccination.
‘They found that measles infection can greatly diminish previously acquired immune memory, potentially leaving individuals at risk for infection by other pathogens. These adverse effects on the immune system were not seen in vaccinated children,’ the Science report said.
Both projects built on the work of Dutch biologist Rik de Swart at the Erasmus University teaching hospital, who had taken blood samples from 90 orthodox children during the 2013 measles epidemic.
Of them, 77 went on to develop measles. ‘The community do not allow their children to be vaccinated but they do not have an issue with science trying to find out how infection works,’ De Swart told news website Nu.nl.
De Swart’s on research results were published last year in Nature Communications and since then he has been involved with the international research groups.
‘Both projects show that measles gives your immune system a real hit, which basically re-sets it,’ he said. ‘And it would appear you need months or even years to recover.’
‘Vaccination protects you against more than just measles,’ he said. ‘By preventing damage to your immune system, you do not have an increased risk of picking up other infectious diseases.’
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