The influence of measles vaccination on the incidence of otosclerosis in Germany

Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2007 Jul;264(7):741-8. doi: 10.1007/s00405-007-0253-9. Epub 2007 Feb 13.


The pathologic process of otosclerosis is characterized by an inflammatory lytic phase followed by an abnormal bone remodeling at very specific sites of predilection. There is a clear genetic predisposition with about half of all cases occurring in families with more than one affected member. Females are affected more frequently than males with an approximate 2:1 ratio. N, H, and F measles proteins as well as measles virus RNA have been demonstrated in osteoblasts, chondroblasts, and macrophages of the inflammatory phase of the disease. These observations merely show an association between measles viruses and otosclerosis. In the present study, we tried to prove that there is a causal relationship: voluntary measles vaccination has been available in Germany since 1974. In the absence of official data, we reconstructed the rate of vaccination coverage between 1974 and 2004 using information from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI, Berlin) and from the literature. From the German Federal Office of Statistics, we received the data of 64,112 patients who had been hospitalized between 1993 and 2004 and in whom otosclerosis (ICD-9: 387; ICD-10: H80) had been confirmed. We calculated the effect of measles vaccination on the incidence of hospital treatments for otosclerosis in the period from 1993 to 2004 in Germany. For this purpose, we divided the female and male otosclerosis patients treated as inpatients each year in the observation period into two age groups: those up to 25 years, who had in most cases been vaccinated (designated below as "vaccinated patients") and those over 25 years who mostly could not have been vaccinated (designated below as "unvaccinated patients"). We calculated the incidence of otosclerosis requiring inpatient treatment for the two age groups in each year in the period of observation. For external validation of the study results, the same analysis was carried out in all patients who received inpatient treatment for otitis media in the same period. Between 1993 and 2004 the incidence of hospital treatments for otosclerosis decreased to a significantly greater extent in the vaccinated patients than in the unvaccinated patients. The decline is much greater in men than in women. A comparable effect cannot be demonstrated in patients with otitis media. The results indicate that measles vaccination in Germany has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of hospital treatments for otosclerosis in the vaccinated age groups. We conclude that there is a causal relationship between measles viruses and the development of otosclerosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Measles / prevention & control*
  • Measles Vaccine / adverse effects*
  • Measles virus / immunology
  • Otosclerosis / chemically induced*
  • Otosclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Time Factors
  • Vaccination / adverse effects*
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data


  • Measles Vaccine