Severe measles in immunocompromised patients

JAMA. 1992 Mar 4;267(9):1237-41.


Objective: To describe the severity of measles in immunocompromised hosts and to assess preventive and therapeutic modalities.

Data sources: Patients admitted to two academic medical centers between September 1989 and December 1990 and English language references obtained by MEDLINE from 1963 to 1991. Bibliographies were used to identify reports prior to 1963.

Study selection: We identified nine immunocompromised patients with measles. Further analysis was based on 35 patients from two cohort studies of measles in oncology patients and 24 reported cases of measles in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients.

Data extraction: Clinical data are presented from the nine patients we treated. Information concerning measles complications, presence of rash, use of prophylactic immunoglobulin, and therapeutic measures was extracted from the literature.

Data synthesis: Of our nine patients, eight developed severe complications and two died. Two patients had no rash. In combining our patients with those from the literature, severe complications occurred in about 80%. The case fatality rate for severe measles was about 70% for oncology patients and about 40% for HIV-infected patients. Rash was absent in about 30%. The efficacy of prophylactic or therapeutic measures could not be assessed due to the small number of patients. However, we observed a rapid defervescence following administration of ribavirin. Vaccinated, HIV-infected patients had a lower mortality rate than those not previously vaccinated (P = .06).

Conclusions: Measles is a severe illness in immunocompromised patients, and the absence of rash is frequent. While treatment is supportive, ribavirin requires further study. Measles vaccine may be efficacious in HIV-infected patients. Vaccination of oncology patients should be reassessed.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / complications
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host*
  • Infant
  • Measles / mortality
  • Measles / prevention & control
  • Measles / therapy*
  • Neoplasms / complications