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J Pathol. 2006 Jan;208(2):199-214.

Morbilliviruses and human disease.

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School of Biomedical Sciences and Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, The Queen's University of Belfast, UK.


Morbilliviruses are a group of viruses that belong to the family Paramyxoviridae. The most instantly recognizable member is measles virus (MV) and individuals acutely infected with the virus exhibit a wide range of clinical symptoms ranging from a characteristic mild self-limiting infection to death. Canine distemper virus (CDV) and rinderpest virus (RPV) cause a similar but distinctive pathology in dogs and cattle, respectively, and these, alongside experimental MV infection of primates, have been useful models for MV pathogenesis. Traditionally, viruses were identified because a distinctive disease was observed in man or animals; an infectious agent was subsequently isolated, cultured, and this could be used to recapitulate the disease in an experimentally infected host. Thus, satisfying Koch's postulates has been the norm. More recently, particularly due to the advent of exceedingly sensitive molecular biological assays, many researchers have looked for infectious agents in disease conditions for which a viral aetiology has not been previously established. For these cases, the modified Koch's postulates of Bradford Hill have been developed as criteria to link a virus to a specific disease. Only in a few cases have these conditions been fulfilled. Therefore, many viruses have over the years been definitely and tentatively linked to human diseases and in this respect the morbilliviruses are no different. In this review, human diseases associated with morbillivirus infection have been grouped into three broad categories: (1) those which are definitely caused by the infection; (2) those which may be exacerbated or facilitated by an infection; and (3) those which currently have limited, weak, unsubstantiated or no credible scientific evidence to support any link to a morbillivirus. Thus, an attempt has been made to clarify the published data and separate human diseases actually linked to morbilliviruses from those that are merely anecdotally associated.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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