The origins of measles: Virus diverged from cattle-infecting relative earlier than thought in history

June 18, 2020

The measles virus diverged from a closely related cattle-infecting virus in approximately the sixth century BCE - around 1,400 years earlier than current estimates - according to a new study of dozens of measles genomes. The results paint a new portrait of the evolutionary history of the measles virus, showing that the pathogen emerged far earlier than previously suspected and at a time that coincided with the rise of large urban centers throughout Eurasia and South and East Asia. As one of humanity's oldest microbial foes, the measles virus has been a prime target for both health authorities and scientists seeking to define the evolutionary paths of common human pathogens. Researchers suspect that the measles virus emerged when the now-eradicated rinderpest virus spilled over from cattle into human populations. The accepted consensus dates the emergence of measles to around the end of the ninth century CE, but uncertainty still remains. To get a better fix on the origins of measles, Ariane Düx and colleagues reconstructed the measles virus genome using lung samples collected from a 1912 measles case. They then compared sequencing data to a 1960 measles genome, 127 modern measles genomes, and genomes from rinderpest and another cattle virus named PPRV. Using a series of evolutionary and molecular clock models, the researchers traced the emergence of measles in humans between the years 1,174 BCE and 165 CE, with a mean estimate of 528 BCE. The authors speculate that their results support a scenario where a bovine virus ancestor circulated among cattle for thousands of years, before jumping to humans once settlements began to surge in size in the late first millennium BCE. In a related Perspective, Simon Ho and Sebastián Duchêne discuss the study's results in more detail.

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related Measles Articles from Brightsurf:

Localized vaccination surveillance could help prevent measles outbreaks
Access to more localized data on childhood vaccination coverage, such as at the school or neighborhood levels, could help better predict and prevent measles outbreaks in the United States, according to a new University of Michigan study.

Measles outbreaks in Niger linked to rainfall and temperature, study finds
Rainfall and temperature drive agricultural activity, which, in turn, influences patterns of measles outbreaks in the West African nation of Niger, according to an international team of researchers.

Measles origin finding could inform COVID-19 research
Virus genome sequencing study and comment published in Science. University of Sydney and University of Melbourne evolutionary scientists provide commentary on important new study.

Low vaccination rates and 'measles parties' fueled 2019 measles outbreak in NYC
An analysis of the 2018-2019 measles outbreak in New York City identifies factors that made the outbreak so severe: delayed vaccination of young children combined with increased contact among this age group, likely through ''measles parties'' designed to purposely infect children.

Atomic structures mapped in measles, mumps, flu and RSV
Northwestern University researchers have, for the first time, determined the 3D atomic structure of a key complex in paramyxoviruses, a family of viruses that includes measles, mumps, human parainfluenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Complications of measles can include hepatitis, appendicitis, and viral meningitis, doctors warn
The complications of measles can be many and varied, and more serious than people might realise, doctors have warned in the journal BMJ Case Reports after treating a series of adults with the infection.

How measles wipes out the body's immune memory
Study shows measles wipes out 20 to 50% of antibodies against an array of viruses and bacteria, depleting a child's previous immunity.

Measles virus infection destroys immune system memory
In humans and macaques, measles infection wipes out antibodies to previous pathogens and could make individuals more susceptible to disease.

In unvaccinated children, 'immune amnesia' occurs in the wake of measles infection
Two separate investigations into the immune systems of 77 unvaccinated children before and after measles infection have revealed the infection can cripple immunity against viruses and bacteria for the long-term, creating a kind of 'immune amnesia' that leaves individuals more vulnerable to future infections by other pathogens.

Simple model captures almost 100 years of measles dynamics in London
A simple epidemiological model accurately captures long-term measles transmission dynamics in London, including major perturbations triggered by historical events.

Read More: Measles News and Measles Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to