Study Shows That Babies Of Seronegative Mothers May Not Have Immunity Against Measles

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Scientists at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) have established that one in five newborns might not have measles antibodies from their mothers which suggests that there is a need for other strategies to protect children in case of an outbreak before they receive the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine at one year.

Rubella tested during pregnancy but not measles 

The researchers analyzed biobank serum samples from 550 patients that were admitted to hospitals for childbirth from April to October 2021. They tested the serum samples for measles and rubella. It is important to note that rubella is usually tested during pregnancy but not measles. 

Out of the 513 patients whose serum samples were tested, 20.1% were seronegative. However, findings didn’t find that rubella serostatus was an indicator of the presence of measles antibodies. These results show that newborns born to seronegative mothers do not have immunity to measles which is normally passed from the mother. It is important to note that there are other tests that can be used to determine if the patient is immune to the measles virus. 

CHOP neonatologist at Pennsylvania hospital Dustin Flannery said that there might be other ways of determining if a mother has immunity, but newborns will have that immunity if their mothers are seronegative. However, the challenge is what to do in the event of an outbreak to make babies below one year have some form of protection. 

Babies of seronegative mothers not immune to measles 

The authors indicate that babies born to seronegative mothers for measles antibodies could benefit from additional early vaccinations during measles cases, a tactic that was previously suggested in the research reported in The Lancet Infectious Diseases as a potential way to boost immunity in the event of an outbreak. This strategy is currently used when traveling to regions with low measles vaccination rates.

The study findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The findings could inform policy on measles vaccination to protect babies. 

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