New research has found that the vaccination against measles doesn’t just protect against that particular virus. It also fights off other infectious diseases trying to take advantage of weakened immune systems.
Researchers from Princeton University, Emory University, the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, and Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands, published their findings today in the new issue of Science Magazine.
They used data from before and after mass measles vaccinations began in England, Wales, the United States, and Denmark.
What the researchers found is that measles damages the memory of an individual’s immune system, making it incapable of fighting off other bacteria.
The researchers found that following mass measles vaccinations, there was a reduction in related deaths in the countries where the immunizations happened.
The findings suggest that the measles vaccine played a big part in decreasing mortality from other infectious diseases by helping to keep intact the immune systems’ fighting memories.
On the other end of the spectrum, measles damage to the immune system can last for two to three years. Researchers said that during that period, people who fought off measles on their own were more at risk of falling to other pathogens.
Measles on the Rise in the United States
In 1963, a vaccine became available to fight off measles. In 2000, measles was declared eliminated in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Recent annual reports of measles in the United States have ranged from a low of 37 people in 2004 to a high of 668 in 2014. That increase is largely due to infection in other countries, but there also is an increasing number of unvaccinated children in the United States.
The virus is still common in other countries and is highly contagious. Across the globe, measles kills about 17 people every hour, according to the CDC.
Measles can be prevented with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, according to the CDC. One dose is about 93 percent effective at fending off measles, and two doses increase effectiveness to 97 percent. The CDC recommends two doses of the MMR vaccine for all children.