The evergreen power of anti-measles vaccination

Following the big drop in pediatric vaccination campaigns during the COVID-19 pandemic, a tremendous increase of measles disease cases has been observed across Europe in 2023 compared with the previous year.
Published in Microbiology
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Notably, this significant reduction in childhood active immunization had already resulted in an 18% increase in estimated disease cases as well as in a 43% increase in estimated measles fatalities in 2022 compared with 2021. This is of concern in the fight against an infectious disease which is still responsible for no less than 100,000 deaths worldwide, with mass vaccinations against measles between 2000 and 2021 having prevented approximately 57 million deaths (Minta et al., 2023).

Notwithstanding the above, the public health implications of measles unfortunately go well beyond the still dramatic effects outlined above, with measles virus (MeV) infection causing a remarkable drop in the preexisting antibody response against other pathogens. This will obviously imply a lower resistance to natural infection, on one side, and a diminished protection offered by vaccine immunization against the aforementioned microorganisms, on the other (Mina et al., 2019).

The list of pathogens potentially impacted by such MeV-induced humoral immune response reduction could be very long, thus including also the COVID-19 betacoronavirus SARS-CoV-2, with several of its continuously evolving variants having already shown a high propensity to escape the host's immunity conferred either by natural infection or by vaccination (Di Guardo, 2021). Therefore, due to the alarming surge of measles cases recently detected in Europe (including Italy) and elsewhere, the worldwide success achieved against COViD-19 through mass vaccination could be adversely affected.

In conclusion, an extensive vaccine coverage of the general pediatric population against measles is urgently needed on a global scale, with international and national Health Authorities putting their best efforts and encouragement in this direction.

References

1) Di Guardo, G. COVID-19: Measles and Antibiotic Resistance Are a Matter of Concern. Pathogens 2021; 10, 449. https://doi.org/10.3390/pathogens10040449.

2) Mina, M.J., Kula, T., Leng, Y., et al. Measles virus infection diminishes preexisting antibodies that offer protection from other pathogens. Science 2019; 366, 599-606.

3) Minta, A.A., Ferrari, M., Antoni, S., et al. Progress Toward Measles Elimination - Worldwide, 2000-2022. MMWR Morb. Mortal. Wkly. Rep. 2023; 72:1262-1268. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7246a3.

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