Tetyana Obukhanych, PhD pursued her graduate education and research training in the field of Immunology in leading biomedical institutions in the United States, including The Rockefeller University, Harvard Medical School, and Stanford University. She recently gave a review of the controversial children's book Melanie’s Marvelous Measles.
In her review, she says that the book portrays a hypothetical children’s book scenario comprised of the following:
- two vaccinated school-age children get measles;
- the experience of measles in these children mirrors the quality of their daily nutrition prior to disease;
- an unvaccinated child, whose family knows the value of proper nutrition and shuns vaccination due to adverse effects experienced by an older sibling, does not develop any measles symptoms despite visiting her friend during illness;
- vegetable sources of vitamin A are suggested to prevent or speed up the recovery from measles;
- having measles in childhood is suggested to be beneficial due to building the immunity from disease.
She says that, for some, the most unbelievable feature of the story may be the occurrence of
measles in vaccinated children. She then goes on to ask and answer some important questions:
Can vaccinated individuals get measles?
Yes, vaccinated individuals can get measles in real life.
This fact might be surprising to those unfamiliar with immunologic research in animals
and epidemiologic data on measles and other infectious disease outbreaks.
Numerous outbreaks of infectious diseases, measles and other, have been
documented in communities with high vaccination coverage and involving anywhere
from 20% to 80% of fully vaccinated individuals.
The reason for such a significant contribution of fully vaccinated individuals to outbreaks
is not random vaccine failures, but a predicted limited duration of protection conferred by
any vaccine against the corresponding disease.
Research in animals had demonstrated that injection of inactivated virus (and most
vaccines are made of attenuated or inactivated viruses) was capable of achieving only
short duration of protection, during which the serum taken from such animals had virusneutralizing properties.
In contrast, inoculation of research animals with full-potency wild virus (such as those
encountered naturally) led to long-lived protective capacity of the serum measured by
virus neutralization test.
These findings suggest that a vaccinated person can, upon exposure, succumb to measles
(or any other viral disease deemed to be vaccine-preventable) after the vaccine’s shortlasting protective effect wanes.
This is in contrast to permanent immunity developed after exposure to natural virus. This
point is well illustrated and discussed in Melanie’s Marvelous Measles.
This brings up the next question.
If vaccination against measles gives only short-lasting protection, and previously
vaccinated children might get measles anyway (as correctly depicted in the book),
might vitamin A have any role in modulating the experience of measles?
Vitamin A (retinoids) is a necessary partner of a crucial natural anti-viral messenger
called interferon. Interferon is produced by cells of the innate immune system called
macrophages within hours of them detecting a virus in the body.
One of the known interferon’s anti-viral functions is to provide a molecular signal to
other cells that makes them become resistant to viral entry.
However, the message of interferon gets through to those cells, including neurons, only in
presence of vitamin A.
The crucial role of interferon-secreting macrophages in modulating the course of a viral
infection is exemplified in a research experiment, in which mice were depleted of
macrophages and infected with a vesicular stomatitis virus, which normally poses no
danger of disease to humans or animals. Yet, mice depleted of macrophages succumbed
to fatal neuro-invasion by this virus.
This experiment allows us to infer that if the action of interferon is so important in
making a difference between subclinical versus deadly outcome of a viral infection, then
vitamin A deficiency at the time of exposure to the virus would make interferon action
suboptimal and would negatively affect the course of any viral infection in which
interferon is normally involved, measles or some other.
This would also suggest that attempting to correct any pre-existing vitamin A deficiency
only after the onset of disease symptoms (two or three weeks after exposure) is not likely to ensure a mild or subclinical course of the disease, since the action of interferon is
required within hours of viral exposure.
Nevertheless, analysis of placebo-controlled clinical trials of vitamin A administration in
severe measles revealed that a high dose of vitamin A taken on two consecutive days
after the measles diagnosis was still beneficial by reducing croup, overall mortality, and
A quote from Melanie’s Marvelous Measles,
“I read that if your body has plenty of vitamin A you won’t get measles, and if you have measles, eating fruit and vegetables high in vitamin A are helpful for healing,”
is therefore in line with scientific knowledge.
It should be noted, however, that fruit and vegetables do not contain vitamin A per se
(retinoids), but rather beta-carotene, which can be converted to real vitamin A by the
liver. It is retinoids, not beta-carotene, that play a direct role in the above-described antiviral protection in partnership with interferon.
Therefore, the sources of real vitamin A, such as milk/butter from grass-fed cows (i.e.,
cows on pasture, not in feedlot) or high quality cod liver oil, might be necessary in daily
nutrition in addition to fruit and vegetables for the purposes of building up vitamin A
Finally, is there any important long-term benefit of having measles in childhood?
Yes, there is.
The most significant benefit is for girls (mothers-to-be), who by having measles in their
own childhood and acquiring permanent immunity from the disease themselves, would
also furnish this immunity to their offspring due to passive immunity transfer via the
placenta and breastfeeding.
The ability of passive immunity transfer to their babies would be absent in those mothers
who, having been born after the childhood measles vaccination campaign had been
introduced, have not had a chance to experience measles themselves.
The reason why infants are so vulnerable to measles without maternal immuno-protection
is that their immune system is not capable of producing high levels of interferon.
Paradoxically, infants born decades after mass vaccination has been on the way in their
country have much higher chances of contracting measles during sporadic (imported)
outbreaks of a nearly eliminated disease, compared to infants born in the pre-vaccination
era when the incidence of childhood measles was consistently high and affecting older
age groups, ages one to fifteen. This is because, despite early exposure to measles, those infants were under the shield of robust maternal immuno-protection for the first year of life even when not breastfed, and breastfeeding would prolong their protection.
Such natural maternal protection is now systematically eliminated over the span of
generations in many countries around the world. This is done by preventing exposure to
measles in healthy children who would have withstood the disease without complications
and would have developed immunity to protect their own very young offspring, who are
not eligible for getting the measles vaccine before the age of one. If naturally acquired
immunity were preserved, we would not have to fear infant measles mortality, as we do
Melanie’s Marvelous Measles concludes that “for most children it is a good thing to get
measles, many wise people believe measles make the body stronger and more mature for
It is not difficult to see why this makes sense, once we understand the irreplaceability of
naturally acquired immunity in preventing measles in (very young) infants of the next
generation, in whom it would surely be deadly.
Indeed, according to the representatives of the medical establishment and public health,
measles can be a deadly disease. This statement is entirely correct and factual.
In addition to making it more prevalent in (young) infants via mass vaccination of the
generation of their mothers, there are in fact a couple of other factors that might increase
the risk of disease complications from measles infection in older children and adults.
These factors include:
a) neglecting to screen for and promptly correct any sub-clinical vitamin A
(retinoid) deficiencies in the population;
b) using anti-fever medications to suppress disease symptoms, which are known
to increase secondary complications from measles in particular as well as to
exacerbate an existing bacterial infection.
in addition, the book succeeds to alert other unsuspecting parents to the fact that
vaccination does not guarantee protection from disease and inspires them to pay more
attention to the nutrition required for optimal function of the immune system, that would
indeed be marvelous.
Dr. Obukhanych's references and disclaimer can be found at this article's source here:
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