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J Infect Dis. 2001 Jul 1;184(1):1-9. Epub 2001 May 30.

Natural measles causes prolonged suppression of interleukin-12 production.

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Medical Research Council Laboratories, Fajara, Banjul, The Gambia.


Among vaccine-preventable diseases, measles is the preeminent killer of children worldwide. Infection with measles virus (MV) is associated with prolonged suppression of cell-mediated immune responses, a phenomenon that is thought to underlie the susceptibility to secondary infections that accounts for most measles-related mortality. Interleukin (IL)-12 is critical for the orchestration of cellular immunity. MV specifically ablates IL-12 production by monocyte/macrophages in vitro through binding to CD46, a complement regulatory protein that is an MV receptor. To address the effect of MV on IL-12 responses in vivo, cytokine production was examined in Gambian patients with measles. IL-12 production by peripheral blood monocytes from such patients is markedly suppressed, which provides a unifying mechanism for many of the immunologic abnormalities associated with measles. This suppression is prolonged, with significant, stimulus-specific inhibition of IL-12 production demonstrable months after recovery from acute infection. However, despite this suppression, IL-12 responsiveness remains intact.

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