Measles may weaken immune system up to three years

Measles vaccination

Measles may weaken immune system up to three years. PHOTO BY SHUTTERSTOCK

THE MEASLES VIRUS can lead to serious disease in children by suppressing their immune systems for up to three years, according to a study published in the journal Science on May 8, 2015. The study provides evidence that measles may throw the body into a much longer-term state of “immune amnesia,” where essential memory cells that protect the body against infectious diseases are partially wiped out. This vulnerability was previously thought to last a month or two.

“We already knew that measles attacks immune memory, and that it was immunosuppressive for a short amount of time. But this paper suggests that immune suppression lasts much longer than previously suspected,” said C. Jessica Metcalf, co-author and assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and public affairs, who is affiliated with Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

The research findings suggest that — apart from the major direct benefits — measles vaccination may also provide indirect immunological protection against other infectious diseases.

The work was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Science and Technology Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security, and the Research and Policy for Infectious Disease Dynamics (RAPIDD) Program of the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center.

–By B. Rose Huber

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Princeton-Fung Global Forum focuses on global health

IN NOVEMBER, the annual Princeton-Fung Global Forum brought health experts together in Dublin to address the emergence of new diseases and challenges in an increasingly connected world. Case studies of “modern plagues,” including the Ebola crisis, framed the conversation among speakers, panelists and attendees from academia, government and nongovernmental sectors, the media, and the public. Among the conclusions: confronting the emergence of new diseases requires a multidisciplinary approach involving not only public health and medical knowledge but also an understanding of a disease’s economic, environmental, political and historical roots.

The Princeton-Fung Global Forum is a series of meetings that Princeton hosts with the help of a generous gift from 1970 alumnus William Fung.

–By Elisabeth Donahue

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SIMON LEVIN Receives Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement

Simon Levin

Simon Levin (Photo by Brian Wilson)

Simon Levin, the George M. Moffett Professor of Biology, was awarded the 2014 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement for bridging ecological research and environmental policy, economics and social science.

Levin received an award of $200,000 with the prize, which was established in 1973 and is awarded by the international Tyler Prize Executive Committee with the administrative support of the University of Southern California. Levin received the prize at a ceremony on April 25, 2014, in Los Angeles.

Levin, whose research has revealed the multifaceted relationships between species and ecosystems, has played a foundational role in shaping environmental policy and advancing the study of complex ecosystems, according to the Tyler Prize Executive Committee.

“What is so impressive about Simon Levin and his work is that he is a connector,” said Owen Lind, chair of the committee and a biology professor at Baylor University. “His work has bridged the theoretical with the work of ecologists in the field, and connected complex ecological systems to social science and environmental and public policy. It is rare to see one expert have such a dramatic impact on so many fields.”

–By Holly Welles