Despite the extensive media exposure that viruses such as West Nile, Norwalk, and Ebola have received lately, and the emerging threat that old pathogens may reappear as new agents of terrorism, measles virus (MV) persists as one of the leading causes of death by infectious agents worldwide, approaching the annual mortality rate of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1. For most MV victims, fatality is indirect: Virus-induced transient immunosuppression predisposes the individual to opportunistic infections that, left untreated, can result in mortality. In rare cases, MV may also cause progressive neurodegenerative disease. During the past five years (1998–2002), development of animal models and the application of reverse genetics and immunological assays have collectively contributed to major progress in our understanding of MV biology and pathogenesis. Nevertheless, questions and controversies remain that are the basis for future research. In this review, major advances and current debates are discussed, including MV receptor usage, the cellular basis of immunosuppression, the suspected role of MV in “nonviral” diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Paget's disease, and the controversy surrounding MV vaccine safety.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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