Study explores why measles, unlike flu, only requires childhood vaccines

A new study found that the measles virus is extremely intolerant of insertional mutation. | Courtesy of

A study recently published in Cell Reports helps shed light on why people only need one vaccine for measles, but multiple vaccines for influenza.

The study's conclusion: The proteins on the surface of the measles virus cannot invade the body’s cells if the measles virus has undergone any mutations.

Measles is an old, reliable virus that requires two doses of vaccine during childhood to provide lifelong protection.

The virus that causes influenza is constantly mutating, requiring an annual vaccine dose tailored to the prevalent strains during each flu season, providing varying degrees of protection.

"We didn't know what we were going to see when we started," senior study author Nicholas Heaton, a microbiologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, said. "The almost complete lack of tolerance to insertional mutation of the measles proteins was surprising. We thought that they may be less tolerant than the influenza proteins, but we were surprised by the magnitude of the difference."

"There are many potential explanations for why measles virus proteins can't tolerate insertional mutations, from changing protein stability to changing the structure or function of the proteins," Heaton said. "If we can better understand why flexibility or rigidity is imposed at a molecular level, we may be able to understand more about why we see different dynamics of viral evolution."

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Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai 1 Gustave L. Levy Pl New York, NY - 10029-6500

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