20 Percent of Pregnant Individuals Lack Measles Immunity

New study from experts reveal that one in five newborn babies are born without measles immunity, as no antibodies were given from their mothers.

The study, conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, proposed the importance of exhibiting strategies to prevent a possible measles outbreak, as newborns can only receive the vaccine once they reach 12 months.

Published in JAMA Network Open on February 3, the study utilized biobank serum samples from 550 participants who had given birth between April and October of 2021. The research used serum samples to test for rubella and measles.


Out of 550 participants, 513 were able to provide appropriate serum samples for the measles testing. The study found that 103 participants did not have antibodies for measles. Researchers said rubella antibodies were not relevant to measles immunity in any way. The study reveals that newborn babies born under mothers who have no measles immunity will naturally not have antibodies as well.

"There may be other ways to determine whether the mother has immunity, but their babies definitely do not have that immunity if their mothers are testing seronegative for measles antibodies," stated Dustin Flannery, D.O. a CHOP neonatologist at Pennsylvania Hospital. "The challenge then becomes, in the event of an outbreak, what is the right course of action to make sure infants younger than 12 months have at least some level of protection?"

Study officials say newborn infants who are born without measles immunity can potentially take advantage of supplemental early vaccinations if outbreaks do occur, a method previously published by Elsevier and currently in use when traveling to regions with a low measles vaccination rate.

What is measles?

Measles is a contagious virus that can be fatal. Before vaccines were developed in 1963, measles outbreaks usually occurred every two to three years, and brought approximately 2.6 million deaths per year, according to WHO. In 2018, despite the vaccine, measles caused 140,000 deaths across the world. The virus is passed through direct contact and airborne spread.

Some common symptoms of the virus include high fever, cough, red eyes, and even rashes which develop after a couple of days.

With the development of vaccines, measles is usually a risk factor for those unvaccinated children and pregnant individuals who have not received the vaccine. Like any other virus, it is also a risk factor for immunocompromised people.

Although there is no specific treatment for measles yet, it is important to stay hydrated and eat nutritious foods to regain a healthy immune system. There is also a WHO-recommended oral rehydration solution that can be used for those who need them. To prevent yourself from catching measles, make sure to get vaccinated.



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