Background: Because measles immunization is reducing overall childhood mortality in addition to mortality from acute measles infection, it has been suggested that postmeasles cases have excess mortality, possibly related to persistent immunosuppression after measles infection. After an epidemic in 1988 in Guinea-Bissau, we therefore examined T lymphocyte subsets and long term survival among measles cases and controls.
Methods: We examined 69 children < 3 years of age with a median delay of 2 months after measles infection and 71 controls who did not contract measles. The immunoalkaline method was used to determine T lymphocyte subsets. The children were followed for 5 years.
Results: Compared with controls, there were no significant differences in white blood cell count, absolute lymphocyte count, CD4 percentage, CD8 percentage, total CD4 count and total CD8 count, although measles cases examined > 2 months after infection had slightly higher CD4 counts than controls (P = 0.06). Adjusted for age, sex and immunization status, postmeasles cases had a mortality rate ratio of 0.50 (95% confidence interval, 0.22 to 1.16) (P = 0.11) compared with controls.
Conclusions: There is no indication of persistent suppression of T cell subsets after measles infection, and postmeasles cases did not have higher mortality than uninfected community controls.