Young infants are not sufficiently protected against measles

May 18, 2010

Young infants appear to have a gap in their protection against measles, from around two to three months old until they are vaccinated at 12 months of age, finds new research published in the British Medical Journal today.

This is because the level of antibodies infants get from their mother drops over time, leaving them susceptible until they are vaccinated.

These findings underline the importance of vaccination at around 12 months of age and support ongoing research into earlier vaccination.

The study involved 207 healthy women-infant pairs recruited from five hospitals in the Province of Antwerp, Belgium from April 2006.

Medical records were used to divide women into two groups: those who had been vaccinated against measles during infancy and those with naturally acquired immunity from measles infection earlier in life.

Levels of measles antibodies were measured from blood samples taken during week 36 of pregnancy, at birth (cord blood), in all infants at 1, 3 and 12 months, and randomly at either 6 or 9 months.

Vaccinated women had significantly fewer antibodies than did naturally immune women. Similarly, infants of vaccinated women had significantly lower antibody levels than infants of naturally immune women.

The presence of maternal antibodies lasted a median time of 2.61 months - 3.78 months for infants of naturally immune women and 0.97 months for infants of vaccinated women.

At six months of age, over 99% of infants of vaccinated women and 95% of infants of naturally immune women had lost their maternal antibodies. And at 9 and 12 months, no positive samples were left in either group.

The researchers found no significant impact of breastfeeding, birth weight, educational level, caesarean section or day care attendance on the duration of maternal antibodies.

This study describes a very early susceptibility to measles in both infants of vaccinated women and women with naturally acquired immunity, say the authors. If future studies show that measles vaccines can be offered with success at an age of less than nine months, policy makers could consider moving forward the routine measles vaccination programme.

For the moment, they suggest early vaccination should be considered during an outbreak or after contact with siblings with measles, and for infants travelling or migrating to endemic areas.

"Most importantly, we confirm the extreme importance of timely administration of the first dose of measles ," they conclude.

Explore further: Senegal monitors contacts of 1st Ebola patient

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mother's flu shot protects newborns

Sep 17, 2008

Newborns can be protected from seasonal flu when their mothers are vaccinated during pregnancy, according to a study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The researchers observed a 63 ...

Measles break out in Tucson

Apr 02, 2008

Arizona health officials are concerned a measles outbreak in the Tucson area could spread across the state.

Recommended for you

Senegal monitors contacts of 1st Ebola patient

10 hours ago

Senegalese authorities on Monday were monitoring everyone who was in contact with a student infected with Ebola who crossed into the country, and who has lost three family members to the disease.

Cerebral palsy may be hereditary

16 hours ago

Cerebral palsy is a neurological developmental disorder which follows an injury to the immature brain before, during or after birth. The resulting condition affects the child's ability to move and in some ...

19 new dengue cases in Japan, linked to Tokyo park

22 hours ago

Japan is urging local authorities to be on the lookout for further outbreaks of dengue fever, after confirming another 19 cases that were contracted at a popular local park in downtown Tokyo.

User comments : 0