, Volume 199, Issue 3, pp 261-271
Date: 14 Apr 2010

Measles virus infection of the CNS: human disease, animal models, and approaches to therapy

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Viral infections of the central nervous system (CNS) mostly represent clinically important, often life-threatening complications of systemic viral infections. After acute measles, CNS complications may occur early (acute postinfectious measles encephalitis, APME) or after years of viral persistence (subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, SSPE). In spite of a presumably functional cell-mediated immunity and high antiviral antibody titers, an immunological control of the CNS infection is not achieved in patients suffering from SSPE. There is still no specific therapy for acute complications and persistent MV infections of the CNS. Hamsters, rats, and (genetically unmodified and modified) mice have been used as model systems to study mechanisms of MV-induced CNS infections. Functional CD4+ and CD8+ T cells together with IFN-γ are required to overcome the infection. With the help of recombinant measles viruses and mice expressing endogenous or transgenic receptors, interesting aspects such as receptor-dependent viral spread and viral determinants of virulence have been investigated. However, many questions concerning the lack of efficient immune control in the CNS are still open. Recent research opened new perspectives using specific antivirals such as short interfering RNA (siRNA) or small molecule inhibitors. In spite of obvious hurdles, these treatments are the most promising approaches to future therapies.