Waning antibody levels and avidity: implications for MMR vaccine-induced protection

J Infect Dis. 2012 Nov 15;206(10):1542-8. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jis568. Epub 2012 Sep 10.


Background: The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is effective in eliciting a good antibody response. In addition to the amount of antibodies, the avidity of these antibodies might be important in protecting against disease.

Methods: The amount of circulating antibodies for measles, mumps, and rubella was measured with enzyme immunoassays, and the avidity of these antibodies was determined by urea dissociation. Three groups of twice-MMR-vaccinated individuals and 1 group of naturally infected individuals were studied. One vaccinated group (n = 71) was studied 6 months and 20 years after a second MMR vaccination.

Results: The antibody avidity indexes were high for measles and rubella but low for mumps. Twenty years after a second MMR vaccination, antibody levels for all 3 viruses waned. Also, the mean avidity index decreased by 8% for measles, 24% for mumps, and remained unchanged for rubella. Antibody avidity correlated with antibody concentration for measles. There was partial correlation for rubella and no correlation for mumps.

Conclusions: Measles and rubella induced high-avidity antibodies and mumps induced low-avidity antibodies after both vaccination and natural infection. Waning of both the concentration as well as the avidity of antibodies might contribute to measles and mumps infections in twice-MMR-vaccinated individuals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aging / immunology
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology*
  • Antibody Affinity / physiology*
  • Child
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Measles / prevention & control
  • Measles virus / immunology
  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine / immunology*
  • Mumps / prevention & control
  • Mumps virus / immunology
  • Rubella / prevention & control
  • Rubella virus / immunology
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine