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Neurological Complications of Measles (Rubeola)


Purpose of Review

Owing to vaccine hesitancy, there has been a resurgence of measles infections in developed countries. Practitioners can expect to see an increase in patients with neurologic complications of measles. These devastating disorders include primary measles encephalitis, acute post measles encephalitis, subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), and measles inclusion body encephalitis (MIBE).

Recent Findings

Although there are many unanswered questions regarding the neurologic complications of measles, recent advances have led to better understanding of the mechanism of the spread of measles within the nervous system, particularly the disruption of F protein function, which raises the possibility of treatment with fusion-inhibiting molecules.


Measles and its neurological complications are preventable and must be prevented. Neurologists must educate other clinicians and the public regarding the consequences of inadequate herd immunity to measles. More effective treatments for SSPE and MIBE may be available in the near future, but currently these remain lethal diseases.

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Fig. 1


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Correspondence to Marc C. Patterson.

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Dr. Patterson reports the following relationships:

Consulting: Amicus, Actelion, IntraBio, Novartis, Orphazyme, Shire/Takeda, Vtesse (all related to lysosomal disease, except for Novartis - multiple sclerosis)

Research Funding: Amicus, Glycomine, Idorsia, Orphazyme, Shire (lysosomal disease, congenital disorders of glycosylation)

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Editorial: Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Child Neurology and CNO (Stipend from Sage); Editor, Journal of Inherited Metabolic Disease and JIMD reports (stipend from SSIEM)

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Patterson, M.C. Neurological Complications of Measles (Rubeola). Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep 20, 2 (2020).

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  • Primary measles encephalitis
  • Acute post-measles encephalitis
  • SSPE
  • MIBE
  • Measles immunization
  • Vaccine hesitancy