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In previous articles we have mentioned that contracting measles in childhood leads to long-term immunity from the disease as opposed to the artificial immunity afforded by vaccination. This is not an issue of dispute. Some studies report that those who have had measles in childhood have an enhanced level of protection against certain other disease in later life. We'll mention some studies here:
Rønne T. Measles virus infection without rash in childhood is related to disease in adult life. Lancet. 1985 Jan 5;1(8419):1-5.
The presence of measles specific antibodies is usually taken as evidence of typical measles in the past; in the present study it was regarded as evidence of infection with measles virus, but not necessarily of the common disease accompanied by a typical rash. The association between a negative history of measles in childhood and certain diseases later in life was investigated by a historical prospective method, based on school health records combined with self-reporting in adulthood, and tests for specific IgG measles antibody. There was evidence of association between a negative history of measles, exposure in early life (possibly injection of immune serum globulin after exposure), and development of immunoreactive diseases, sebaceous skin diseases, degenerative diseases of bone and cartilage, and certain tumours. It is suggested that the presence of measles virus specific antibodies at the time of acute infection interferes with development of specific cytolytic reactions, and enables intracellular measles virus to survive the acute infection. If this hypothesis is verified, use of immune serum globulin after measles exposure has to be reconsidered.
The above study indicates that a lack of rash in measles is associated with an increased incidence of autoimmune and degenerative diseases in later life. As the rash is the means through which the toxin is expelled from the body, its absence leads to the measles virus remaining in the body. The widespread use of vaccination has led to the appearance of "atypical measles" and "mild measles" where no rash develops. This can expose children to diseases in later life.
Sasco AJ, Paffenbarger RS Jr. Measles infection and Parkinson's disease. Am J Epidemiol. 1985 Dec;122(6):1017-31.
A case-control analysis of Parkinson's disease and infections in childhood was conducted in a cohort of 50,002 men who attended Harvard College (Cambridge, MA) or the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA) between 1916 and 1950 and who were followed in adulthood for morbidity and mortality data. Cases of Parkinson's disease were identified from responses to mailed questionnaires and death certificates through 1978. Four controls from the same population were selected for each case. A reduced risk of Parkinson's disease was associated with most childhood viral infections. The negative association was statistically significant for a history of measles prior to college entrance (exposure odds ratio = 0.53; 95% confidence limits: 0.31, 0.93). The reduced risk of Parkinson's disease among subjects with a positive history of measles in childhood may reflect an adverse effect of measles in adulthood or of subclinical or atypical measles. Furthermore, a negative history of measles, especially if associated with a lack of other common diseases, could be a marker for negative influenza history before 1918 and thus a higher risk of infection during the 1918 influenza epidemic, because of the lack of partial influenza immunity. These data may also suggest a truly protective effect of measles, compatible with some complex interaction between measles virus and the virus of the 1918 influenza epidemic.
This research paper indicates the same point as the previous one. Childhood exposure to measles affords a protective effect in later life towards degenerative diseases.
Interestingly, in the 50s through to the 70s "measles parties" and "mumps parties" were well known. Children were allowed to mingle and play with those having measles or mumps in the hope of contracting these self-limiting diseases to help develop natural immunity. After contraction, treatment of the measles-affected child was ensured with rest, plenty of fluids, and allowing the disease to simply progress and come to an end.
Measles has always been known as a mild childhood disease with complications occurring in weaker, immunosuppressed children. In developing countries, the illness is more severe due to the factors of malnutrition, sanitation and general living standards.
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