Slow clearance of measles virus RNA after acute infection

J Clin Virol. 2007 Aug;39(4):312-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jcv.2007.05.006. Epub 2007 Jul 10.


Background: Measles virus (MV) RNA was detected 1 month after hospitalization with measles in more than half of Zambian children but the duration of detectable RNA was not determined.

Objectives: To characterize the time course of MV clearance and identify factors associated with presence of viral RNA at late times after clinical recovery from infection.

Study design: Blood, urine and nasopharyngeal specimens from 49 Zambian children with laboratory-confirmed measles were collected a median of 100 days (range 65-118) after rash onset. Samples were assayed for MV nucleocapsid and hemagglutinin RNA by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. Amplified products were sequenced. Selected immunologic studies were performed.

Results: MV RNA was detected in at least one specimen from 18 children (37%). Eighteen percent of 44 blood mononuclear cell, 23% of 30 nasopharyngeal and 50% of 6 urine specimens were positive. Detection was not associated with HIV-1 infection, % CD4(+) T lymphocytes, plasma interleukin-10 levels or persistent MV-specific IgM. The MV genotype was D2 and sequences of late specimens were the same as specimens collected during acute illness.

Conclusions: Presence of viral RNA at multiple sites more than 3 months after acute disease suggests that clearance of MV-infected cells occurs over many months.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Measles / immunology*
  • Measles / virology*
  • Measles virus / genetics
  • Measles virus / isolation & purification
  • Measles virus / physiology*
  • RNA, Viral / blood*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Zambia


  • RNA, Viral