Early measles virus infection is associated with the development of inflammatory bowel disease

Am J Gastroenterol. 2000 Jun;95(6):1480-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2000.02082.x.


Objective: The measles virus has been implicated as a possible etiological agent in the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Measles infection at an early age is associated with subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, a degenerative neurological condition caused by persistent measles infection of the central nervous system. We sought to determine whether infection with measles virus at an early age was also associated with an increased risk of developing IBD.

Methods: Patients with measles infection diagnosed before the age of 5 yr were identified through the diagnostic indices of the Mayo Clinic and the Rochester Epidemiology Project. A questionnaire was used to ascertain a subsequent history of IBD, which was confirmed by records from the subjects' physicians. The risks of developing Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis were calculated relative to expected rates for these conditions in the Olmsted County, Minnesota population.

Results: Of 1164 eligible cases, 662 (57%) completed the questionnaire. There were six confirmed cases of Crohn's disease and six of ulcerative colitis. The expected number of cases was 1.9 for Crohn's disease (standardized incidence ratio [SIR] 3.1, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.1-6.8) and 2.0 for ulcerative colitis (SIR 3.0, CI 1.1-6.5). There was a trend towards a higher risk of developing IBD with an earlier age of infection.

Conclusions: Early measles infection is associated with an increased risk of developing Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. The risk may be higher with earlier infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / epidemiology
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / virology
  • Crohn Disease / epidemiology
  • Crohn Disease / virology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / virology*
  • Measles*
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires