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Virus Res. 1995 Jan;35(1):1-16.

Detection of measles virus genome directly from clinical samples by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction and genetic variability.

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Kitasato Institute, Department of Virology, Tokyo, Japan.


A simple and sensitive method for the detection of measles virus genome was developed, amplifying the regions encoding the nucleocapsid (N) protein and hemagglutinin (H) protein of measles virus by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). We examined a variety of measles patients: 28 patients with natural infection, 4 with measles encephalitis and 1 with subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE). In 28 patients with natural measles infection a single step PCR amplifying the N region resulted in a high detection rate for all plasma samples (28/28) within 3 days of the onset of rash and 80% (20/25) even on day 7 of the onset of rash and later. Within 3 days of the onset of rash, 24/25 (96.0%) of nasopharyngeal secretions (NPS) and 27/28 (96.4%) of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) were positive for the N region PCR and the positivity rate of PCR decreased in NPS and PBMC after 7 days of the rash. In acute measles infection, measles genome was detected in all cell fractions, CD4, CD8, B cells, and monocytes/macrophages by the H gene nested PCR. Measles genome was also detected from cerebrospinal fluids (CSF) in patients with measles encephalitis, SSPE, and acute measles by the H gene nested PCR. PCR products of the N and H regions were sequenced and we confirmed the presence of measles genome. Based on the sequence data, chronological sequence differences were observed over the past 10 years. The sequences obtained from the SSPE patient were closely related to those of the wild viruses that were circulating at the time when the patient initially acquired measles. RT-PCR for NPS, PBMC, CSF, and plasma provides a useful method for the diagnosis of measles and molecular epidemiological study in addition to virus isolation.

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