, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 443-455

Blue Moon Neurovirology: The Merits of Studying Rare CNS Diseases of Viral Origin

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Abstract

While measles virus (MV) continues to have a significant impact on human health, causing 150,000–200,000 deaths worldwide each year, the number of fatalities that can be attributed to MV-triggered central nervous system (CNS) diseases are on the order of a few hundred individuals annually (World Health Organization 2009). Despite this modest impact, substantial effort has been expended to understand the basis of measles-triggered neuropathogenesis. What can be gained by studying such a rare condition? Simply stated, the wealth of studies in this field have revealed core principles that are relevant to multiple neurotropic pathogens, and that inform the broader field of viral pathogenesis. In recent years, the emergence of powerful in vitro systems, novel animal models, and reverse genetics has enabled insights into the basis of MV persistence, the complexity of MV interactions with neurons and the immune system, and the role of immune and CNS development in virus-triggered disease. In this review, we highlight some key advances, link relevant measles-based studies to the broader disciplines of neurovirology and viral pathogenesis, and propose future areas of study for the field of measles-mediated neurological disease.