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Why Measles Is The Master Childhood Infection
November 17, 2019 @ 12:30 PM - 1:00 PM
Michael J. Mina, MD, PhD
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Harvard Medical School
Introduction of measles vaccines throughout the second half of the 20th century have been linked to massive reductions in overall childhood mortality that far exceeded expectations. Recent evidence links these extra benefits to previously unknown long-term immunological consequences of measles infections that place children at increased risk for all other infectious diseases. We term these long-term consequences of measles infection “measles immune-amnesia”, because measles deletes previously acquired immune memory. Thus, depletion of measles incidence through vaccination had the unintended benefit of preventing immune-amnesia and preserving immune memory for other infections. This presentation will discuss new evidence for measles immune-amnesia using epidemiological analyses and careful assessments of immunological repertoires surrounding natural measles infections. The discovery of measles immune-amnesia and the long-term damage it can cause can be an important tool to encourage measles vaccine uptake–both for vaccine-hesitant parents and for governments weighing national priorities.