Claim #9: Rashless measles leads to degenerative disease
Next, Dr Humphries speculates that measles antibodies (derived from vaccines) interfere with a cell-mediated immune responses to the wild virus, leading to chronic measles infection and eventually immune related disorders later on in life:
Acute natural infection and presumably even vaccination during a time when measles-specific antibody is present may induce a longterm suppressive effect on measles immune response. The presence of such antibodies at the time of infection interferes with the cellular immunological response to measles virus, especially with the development of specific cell-mediated immunity […] Intracellular measles virus may then survive the acute infection and later cause diseases which develop in adulthood.(p 383).
Her proof rests on a 1985 Lancer paper entitled “Measles Virus Infection without Rash in Childhood is Related to Disease in Adult Life”. This is a frequently misquoted paper because it is access restricted and has an obscure sounding abstract. After paying the $ 35.00 to access the full report, I realized that it did not study the effects of measles vaccination at all. It was a historical study done on individuals born in Copenhagen and Gentofte in the pre-vaccination era — specifically 1941 and 1947 onwards. It found that individuals who had contracted the wild form of measles (measured via antibody levels later on in life), without manifesting a rash (roughly 9% of the population), had a higher incidence of degenerative diseases later on in life.
The study speculates that a reason for the absence of rash may have been treatment of measles with immune serum globulin (which is essentially an injection of passive measles antibodies). The author hypothesizes that an injection of passive antibodies at the time of measles infection may interfere with the body’s full immune response to the virus, leading to latent health problems.
In the end, the study recommends aborting immune serum globulin as a form of measles treatment (which is no longer in use today) and using well-timed measles vaccination to reduce the incidence of degenerative disease:
Measles can be controlled by large-scale vaccination, and where this is employed successfully the frequency of non-measles associated disease should be considerably reduced.
Dr Humphries completely misrepresents the study. She concludes somewhat simplistically that an “absence of rash” after measles vaccination signifies an “absence of cellular immune responses” to the virus which in turn leads to degenerative disease later on in life. However, contrary to the 1980s, we do not need to speculate about whether the measles vaccine stimulates cellular immunity or not — we can measure it. The measles vaccine stimulates a full adaptive immune response, involving both antibody mediated and cell-mediated immunity:
Even decades after measles immunization, both the CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell pools contain high levels of measles virus-specific memory T cells. This indicates that measles vaccination induces a long-lived T-cell memory response. (Source)
In fact, cellular immunity from the measles vaccine may even outlast antibody mediated immunity leading to long term protection:
These data suggest that cellular responses to measles virus may be better sustained than antibody titers after vaccination and revaccination in some subjects. (Source)
“Rashlessness” after measles vaccination is not related to lack of cellular immunity. It is more likely related to the decreased virulence of the virus in the measles vaccine, giving the body an easier time to fight off the pathogen.
The effects of maternal antibodies on vaccine responses
There is another aspect to the 1985 Lancet paper above, and that is the possible effect of passively acquired maternal antibodies on the body’s ability to respond to the measles virus. It is interesting to note that babies receive most maternal antibodies before birth via an active transport system in the placenta. These antibodies protect the baby for several months but fade around the 6–8 month mark, depending on the amount of transplacental antibodies received. Babies are unable to absorb maternal antibodies via breast milk or colostrum into their blood stream, except in very minute amounts. Maternal antibodies in breast milk primarily protect against gastrointestinal infections and diarrheal disease, locally, in the gut. This article describes current research in the field with links to studies and sources.
To prevent interference from latent transplacental antibodies, the measles vaccine is only given from 9 months onward. Passive antibodies decline before that age so that babies can form a successful immune response to the virus. Any hypothetical risk factors outlined in the 1985 study above are thus nullified.
Rather than leading to “deranged immune systems”, as Dr Humphries claims, present day studies repeatedly hint at beneficial immuno-stimulating properties of the live measles vaccine above and beyond protection against measles infections:
The measles vaccine activates the immune system in a non-specific way providing protection against other infections. (Source)
Contrary to current assumptions, children who survive the acute phase of measles infection may have a survival advantage compared with unimmunized, uninfected children. Hence, both disease and immunization may be associated with non-specific beneficial effects, presumably due to some form of immunostimulation. (Source)