| Health & Wellbeing
Measles saps kids’ ability to fight other germs
of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine sit in a cooler at the Rockland
County Health Department in Pomona, N.Y. Research released in Oct. shows
yet another reason to vaccinate children against measles. After a bout
of measles, youngsters are more vulnerable to other germs - from
chickenpox to strep - that they once could fend off. (AP Photo/Seth
Washington (AP) — Measles has a stealth side
effect: New research shows it erases much of the immune system’s memory
of how to fight other germs, so children recover only to be left more
vulnerable to bugs like flu or strep.
Scientists dubbed the startling findings “immune
amnesia.” The body can rebuild those defenses — but it could take years.
And with measles on the rise, “it should be a scary
phenomenon,” said Dr. Michael Mina of Harvard’s school of public health,
lead author of research published Thursday in the journal Science.
“This goes under the radar” because doctors
wouldn’t necessarily connect a child’s pneumonia to measles they
suffered a year earlier, Mina explained. “But would they have gotten it
if they hadn’t gotten measles?”
The Harvard team analyzed blood samples taken from
77 children before and after a measles outbreak in an unvaccinated
community in the Netherlands. They looked for antibodies, which remember
viruses and bacteria they encounter to guard against a repeat infection.
After recovering from measles, the youngsters were left with plenty of
antibodies against that virus — but ones they’d previously harbored
against other germs had plummeted.
In the most severe cases, “they’re just as
vulnerable as if they were infants,” said study senior author Stephen
Elledge, a Harvard geneticist. Elledge is paid by the Howard Hughes
Medical Institute, which also supports AP’s Health & Science Department.
A separate study, published Thursday in Science
Immunology, supported the findings. Researchers from Britain’s
Wellcome Sanger Institute used the Dutch blood samples to genetically
test antibody-producing cells, and concluded measles is eliminating
enough to re-set the immune system to a baby-like state.
If protection against the misery — and sometimes
life-threatening effects — of measles isn’t enough reason to vaccinate
children, specialists said the two studies offer a powerful new
“There really are profound gaps and holes” in
someone’s immunity after measles, said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the U.S.
National Institutes of Health, which helped fund the Harvard work. “You
ultimately recover but after a year or two or sometimes more.”
“It’s doubly important to vaccinate children,”
agreed Dr. Mark Mulligan of NYU Langone Health, who wasn’t involved with
the new research. “It’s a vaccine that protects against the specific
target, measles virus, but also against immune suppression.”
Measles is one of the world’s most contagious
viruses, able to spread through coughs and sneezes for four days before
someone develops the characteristic rash. It sometimes leaves children
with brain damage or hearing loss, and while deaths are rare in the
U.S., measles killed 110,000 people globally in 2017.
The vaccine offers powerful protection but a lack
of access means measles remains rampant in many lower-income countries.
Even the U.S., where most children are immunized, has seen a resurgence
fueled by outbreaks in unvaccinated communities that in turn threaten
people too young or sick to be immunized. So far this year, the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention has counted more than 1,200 U.S.
measles cases, the most since 1992.
Doctors have long known that people temporarily
experience weakened immunity after measles. Using decades of health
records, Mina previously reported that child deaths from other
infections jumped after a measles outbreak, increases that lasted two or
But no one knew why, until the new study.
The Dutch children started out pretty healthy:
Technology developed in Elledge’s lab found antibodies in their blood
against typical childhood germs. But two months after recovering from
measles, the children had lost on average 20 percent of their usual
antibody mix. Some lost up to 70 percent of protection against specific
bugs, limiting their ability to respond if they encounter that germ
Importantly, researchers didn’t find loss of
antibodies in “control” populations that didn’t get infected with
measles — or in children after they received the measles vaccine.
Vaccine shows promise for preventing active TB disease
This 1966 image made available by
the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shows a chest
x-ray of a tuberculosis patient. An experimental vaccine has
proved 50% effective at preventing latent tuberculosis infection
from turning into active disease in a three-year study of adults
in Africa. (CDC via AP)
An experimental vaccine proved 50%
effective at preventing latent tuberculosis infection from
turning into active disease in a three-year study of adults in
Doctors were encouraged because protection
declined only a little after two years, and even a partially
effective vaccine would be a big help against TB. The lung
disease kills more than a million people a year, mostly in poor
countries, and about one-third of the world’s people harbor the
bacteria that cause it.
Results were reported Tuesday at a
conference in India, the country hardest hit by TB, and
published by the New England Journal of Medicine.
There is a TB vaccine now, but it’s given
only to very young children and partly prevents severe
complications. Researchers have been seeking a vaccine that also
works in adults, to curb spread of the disease.
GlaxoSmithKline’s experimental vaccine was
tested in nearly 3,600 adults in Kenya, South Africa and Zambia
who were infected with TB but who did not also have HIV, the
virus that causes AIDS.
Half were given two doses of vaccine a
month apart and the rest got dummy shots. Thirteen people in the
vaccine group and 26 in the other group developed active TB.
The new results show that “the vaccine is
holding up” over time, and mark an important step toward having
a prevention tool that’s been sought for 100 years, said Dr.
Paula Fujiwara, scientific director of the International Union
Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, the group hosting the
conference in Hyderabad, India.
Plans are underway for another, definitive
study, which will take at least several more years, she said.
After two-year results were announced last
year, the World Health Organization called the vaccine a major
breakthrough and has been holding meetings to discuss how to
further its development.
J&J agrees to $117M settlement over pelvic mesh devices
July 30, 2013, file photo, large banners hang in an atrium at the
headquarters of Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, N.J. Johnson &
Johnson has agreed to a $117 million multistate settlement over
allegations it deceptively marketed its pelvic mesh products, which
support women’s sagging pelvic organs. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
Linda A. Johnson
Trenton, N.J. (AP) —
Johnson & Johnson has agreed to a $117 million multistate settlement
over allegations it deceptively marketed its pelvic mesh products, which
support women’s sagging pelvic organs.
Ohio’s attorney general said
Thursday an investigation found that J&J, the world’s biggest health
products maker, violated state consumer protection laws by not fully
disclosing the devices’ risks.
Numerous women who had the
once-popular, hammock-like devices implanted claim they caused severe
pain, bleeding, infections and other complications.
Johnson & Johnson and its Ethicon
surgical products unit reached the settlement with 41 states and the
District of Columbia.
“These companies didn’t paint a
clear picture of the device’s medical risks, preventing patients from
making well-informed decisions,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in
The products, also called
transvaginal mesh, are a synthetic material surgically implanted through
the vagina of women whose pelvic organs have sagged or who suffer from
stress urinary incontinence — bladder leakage when they cough, sneeze or
lift heavy objects. Such incontinence is estimated to affect 3% to 17%
of women and sometimes becomes severe after age 70.
Some of the products are still on
the U.S. market, and hundreds of thousands of women have had the devices
surgically implanted, according to Yost’s office.
An Ethicon spokeswoman noted the
settlement doesn’t include admission of any misconduct, and said the
devices “are considered by many to be the gold standard for the
treatment of stress urinary incontinence.”
“Ethicon has acted appropriately and
responsibly in the research, development and marketing of our transvaginal
mesh products,” which were launched around the world in 1998, she added.
About 25,000 U.S. women with
complications have sued Johnson & Johnson, the company said. Those lawsuits
aren’t affected by the settlement.
It comes as J&J is swamped with
thousands of lawsuits claiming patients were harmed by products including
baby powder, opioid painkillers and prescription drugs such as its
schizophrenia drug Risperdal. Headlines about the litigation and big jury
verdicts against J&J, including an $8 billion punitive award to a young man
who grew breasts while taking Risperdal, have depressed J&J’s stock price
for nearly a year. Most of the verdicts against J&J have been overturned or
are being appealed.
The pelvic mesh deal requires the
company to cease its claims that surgical technique can eliminate any risks,
as well as to disclose a list of risks, including loss of sexual function,
mesh eroding into the vagina and the possible need for corrective surgery.
The settlement covers the District
of Columbia and these states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas,
Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho,
Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland,
Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New
Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio,
Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota,
Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Ethicon said it settled separately with
Washington State and has cases pending in California, Kentucky, Mississippi
and West Virginia.
J&J shares closed Thursday up $1.00 to
$136.17, still well below their 52-week high of $148.99 late last fall.
Vaping-related illnesses still rising, though at slower pace
Friday, Oct. 4, 2019 photo, a man using an electronic cigarette exhales in
Mayfield Heights, Ohio. Vaping-related illnesses in the U.S. are still
rising, though at a slightly slower pace. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
New York (AP) —
Vaping-related illnesses in the U.S. are still rising, though at a slightly
Health officials of Thursday said there
have been 1,479 cases and at least 33 deaths in the mysterious outbreak.
The Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention has been releasing new case counts each week. The latest jump —
180 cases — was the lowest increase since mid-September. But CDC officials
say there’s no indication that the outbreak is waning.
The outbreak appears to have started in
March. Symptoms of the illness include severe shortness of breath, fatigue,
and chest pain. No single ingredient, electronic cigarette or vaping device
has been linked to all the illnesses.
Most who got sick said they vaped
products containing THC, the high-inducing ingredient in marijuana.
Investigators say they are increasingly focused on black-market THC
About 1 in 10 of the outbreak cases
said they used only nicotine but that percentage has been falling. It was
13% last week. In some cases, people who initially claimed they had used
only nicotine admitted later they had vaped THC.
Until a cause is pinpointed, the CDC is
advising Americans to refrain from vaping.
Forty-nine states and one U.S.
territory have reported illnesses. Only Alaska has not seen a case. The vast
majority of cases are people in their teens, 20s or early 30s, according to