Immune amnesia: What’s that?
On Episode 88 of my health and wellness podcast, Causes or Cures, I chatted with Dr. Guillermo Barrios Morales about his new research that modeled the effects of Measles-induced Immune Amnesia, while another infectious disease outbreak is happening simultaneously. For example, COVID-19.
In the podcast he dives into deeper detail on the specifics of immune amnesia and how it works, but the cliff notes are that Measles is known for causing immune amnesia. When that happens, it temporarily wipes out our immune system’s memory cells or ability to respond to specific viruses. So for example, say you have Measles. You recover but you develop immune amnesia. Say you are then exposed to a virus you thought you were immune to, either through vaccination or having had it and recovered. With immune amnesia, your body will no longer be able to fight off the virus effectively. It’s kind of wild and something we don’t often discuss or think about. In fact, the assumption is that our immune system will be stronger after recovering from a virus, but that may not be the case with Measles. The reason I was drawn to Guillermo’s research is that I thought it was really interesting to think about how immune amnesia from Measles on a wider scale could affect not only our individual immunity to specific viruses but herd immunity at the population level. Like, could immune amnesia from Measles wipe out our herd immunity to other viruses? It sounds like a movie plot for the apocalypse, but it actually could happen.
Obviously, folks most at risk for Measles are those who are not vaccinated. The vaccine is great at shutting down Measles infection. However, we have experienced outbreaks here due to low vaccination rates. In another recent podcast, I chatted with an oncology nurse who lives in an orthodox religious community that had a Measles outbreak. Her perspective is interesting, and you can listen to the podcast here. Wealthy countries have an abundance of Measles vaccines. That isn’t the case with many countries throughout the world that lack access. For example, I recently covered stories about a Measles outbreak in Cameroon and one in Afghanistan that sadly killed 74 kids. All. avoidable. deaths.
In the podcast, you’ll learn more about immune amnesia, how long it may last, what it can do to herd immunity to other viruses, how it could impact immunity to COVID-19 and more. Dr. Barrios Morales is a physicist and researcher affiliated with the Universidad de Granada in Spain. A link to his study on measles and immune amnesia is here.
You can listen to the Causes or Cures podcast here.
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