Replication of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is briefly suppressed during acute measles. A study of HIV-infected children found that HIV levels in the blood were significantly lower while having measles compared to HIV-infected children who did not have measles.
"We were surprised by these findings, because we expected to see HIV replication increase, not decrease with measles," says the study's lead author William Moss, MD, MPH, assistant research professor of international health and molecular microbiology and immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
For the study, Dr. Moss and his colleagues followed 100 children diagnosed with measles and HIV. The children's HIV levels were measured from blood samples taken when they were admitted to the hospital for measles treatment. More samples were taken when the children were discharged from the hospital, and again 2 month later. They were compared with samples taken from HIV-infected children who did not have measles or other illnesses and with samples from children with measles, but not HIV.
"Measles is a very immunosuppressive virus. It results in many secondary infections and is a major cause of death among children. Our findings show that measles also triggers intense immune system activation that temporarily suppresses HIV," explains Dr. Moss.