Isolation of vaccine-derived measles viruses from children with acute respiratory infection

Tohoku J Exp Med. 2013 Jun;230(2):111-5. doi: 10.1620/tjem.230.111.


The measles elimination project led by the World Health Organization (WHO) has been moving toward the target of eliminating measles in the WHO Western Pacific Region. In Japan, prefectural public health institutes play a key role for the laboratory diagnosis of measles virus (MV) infection, which is based on PCR, virus isolation, and genotyping. Microscopic examination of viral-sensitive cell lines during routine virus isolation from nasopharyngeal specimens has been used to detect the morphological changes typical for the growth of respiratory viruses. Here, we describe the unexpected isolation of vaccine-derived MVs from the two unrelated 1-year-old boys with acute respiratory infection. The nasopharyngeal specimens were obtained from one patient in February 2007 and from another in December 2012. Incidentally, the two children had received measles-rubella vaccination 9 or 11 days before the sampling. The isolates from two children induced morphological changes of the viral-sensitive cell lines, such as syncythia formation (cell fusion). We finally identified the isolates as vaccine-derived MVs by sequence analysis and immunological methods with anti-measles nucleoprotein antibodies. As no typical symptoms of MV infection were observed in either patient, the vaccine-derived MVs were isolated not as causative pathogens but by chance. In fact, there was no suspected case of secondary MV infection in either patient, thereby excluding the possibility that vaccine-derived MVs spread from human to human. Our experiences suggest the possibility of vaccine-derived MV isolation by cell cultures and the difficulty in identifying MVs in specimens from patients other than clinically suspected measles cases.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Measles / diagnosis*
  • Measles / virology
  • Measles virus / isolation & purification*
  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine / adverse effects*
  • Nucleoproteins / immunology
  • Pharyngitis / virology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / virology*
  • World Health Organization


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine
  • Nucleoproteins