Measles virus and associated central nervous system sequelae

Semin Pediatr Neurol. 2012 Sep;19(3):107-14. doi: 10.1016/j.spen.2012.02.003.


Worldwide, measles remains one of the most deadly vaccine-preventable diseases. In the United States, enrollment in the public schools requires that each child receives 2 doses of measles-containing vaccine before entry, essentially eliminating this once endemic disease. Recent outbreaks of measles in the United States have been associated with importation of measles virus from other countries and subsequent transmission to intentionally undervaccinated children. The central nervous system complications of measles can occur within days or years of acute infection and are often severe. These include primary measles encephalitis, acute postinfectious measles encephalomyelitis, measles inclusion body encephalitis, and subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. These measles-associated central nervous system diseases differ in their pathogenesis and pathologic effects. However, all involve complex brain-virus-immune system interactions, and all can lead to severe and permanent brain injury. Despite better understanding of the clinical presentations and pathogenesis of these illnesses, effective treatments remain elusive.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain Diseases / diagnosis
  • Brain Diseases / virology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Encephalitis, Viral / complications
  • Encephalitis, Viral / virology*
  • Humans
  • Measles / complications*
  • Measles / virology
  • Measles Vaccine
  • Measles virus / pathogenicity*
  • Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis / complications
  • Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis / virology*


  • Measles Vaccine