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Researchers explain why measles is so contagious
Researchers from the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), together with colleagues from the United States, Canada, Singapore and France, have found out why measles viruses are so contagious. For the first time, a detailed proof of the mechanisms underlying the transmission of measles viruses was achieved.
Measles is considered highly infectious, but it has so far remained unclear why measles viruses can jump from person to person so easily compared to other pathogens. The scientists at the Paul Ehrlich Institute, which is also responsible for the approval of vaccines and medicinal products in Germany, were able to demonstrate that measles viruses are particularly easy to transmit due to their location in the windpipe. From this strategically favorable location, the viruses are thrown into the environment with tiny particles during the typical measles cough and then taken up by fellow human beings, the researchers explained in the online edition of the journal "Nature".
Transmission of measles viruses deciphered in detail According to the PEI scientists, it is “astonishing that it was not known in detail how the virus got into the body.” It has long been proven that measles viruses use a special receptor to infect the cells of the respiratory tract and the infected cells then spread through the lymph nodes throughout the organism. However, in order to infect other hosts, the viruses have to resettle in the strategically favorable location in the windpipe. "But how the pathogens get back into the airways in order to finally take the way out has so far remained a mystery," explained the PEI experts. The researchers led by Michael Mühlebach from the Paul Ehrlich Institute have now found that the so-called transmembrane protein "Nectin-4" enables the measles viruses to find their way back into the trachea.
With measles viruses against cancer? Their findings could not only help to significantly reduce the spread of measles viruses and improve the treatment of the infectious disease, but could also make progress in the use of “measles viruses in cancer therapy” possible, the PEI researchers explained. American scientists from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, published a study in June that showed that the injection of weakened measles viruses directly into the tumors slowed the growth of lymphoma cancer significantly, and in some cases even caused the tumors to shrink.
Renaissance of measles in Germany The growing prevalence of measles viruses in Germany has recently attracted increased media attention, not least because the Robert Koch Institute and the Professional Association of Pediatricians (BVKJ) repeatedly believe that vaccination protection in the Denounced population. The experts criticized that the number of measles infections doubled compared to the previous year. A total of 780 measles infections were reported in 2010, and this year more than 1,500 diseases have already been registered. The health risk of measles infection should not be underestimated, as is also illustrated by the approximately 120,000 measles-related deaths worldwide each year, the researchers at the Paul Ehrlich Institute emphasized. (fp)
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Image: Gerd Altmann / pixelio.de