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Arch Virol Suppl. 1999;15:139-58.

Pathogenic aspects of measles virus infections.

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  • 1Institute of Virology and Immunobiology, University of W├╝rzburg, Germany.


Measles virus (MV) infections normally cause an acute self limiting disease which is resumed by a virus-specific immune response and leads to the establishment of a lifelong immunity. Complications associated with acute measles can, on rare occasions, involve the central nervous system (CNS). These are postinfectious measles encephalitis which develops soon after infection, and, months to years after the acute disease, measles inclusion body encephalitis (MIBE) and subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) which are based on a persistent MV infection of brain cells. Before the advent of HIV, SSPE was the best studied slow viral infection of the CNS, and particular restrictions of MV gene expression as well as MV interactions with neural cells have revealed important insights into the pathogenesis of persistent viral CNS infections. MV CNS complication do, however, not large contribute to the high rate of mortality seen in association with acute measles worldwide. The latter is due to a virus-induced suppression of immune functions which favors the establishment of opportunistic infections. Mechanisms underlying MV-mediated immunosuppression are not well understood. Recent studies have indicated that MV-induced disruption of immune functions may be multifactorial including the interference with cytokine synthesis, the induction of soluble inhibitory factors or apoptosis and negative signalling to T cells by the viral glycoproteins expressed on the surface of infected cells, particularly dendritic cells.

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