Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 443–455 | Cite as

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

  • Lauren A. O’Donnell
  • Glenn F. RallEmail author


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.


measles virus neuron SSPE CNS infection 



canine distemper virus


central nervous system


cerebrospinal fluid


fusion protein


green fluorescent protein


hemagglutinin protein


interferon gamma




interferon-stimulated gene


RNA-dependent, RNA polymerase protein


lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus


matrix protein


mouse hepatitis virus


measles inclusion body encephalopathy


measles virus






neuron-specific enolase




post-infectious encephalomyelitis




signaling lymphocyte activation molecule


subacute sclerosing panencephalitis


signal transducer and activation of transcription


T helper


yeast artificial chromosome



We thank Kevin O'Regan, Christine Matullo, and Sarah Cavanaugh for advice on this manuscript and acknowledge support from the following sources: G.F.R. was supported by NIH grants RO1-NS40500, RO1-NS060701, P30-CA006927, a Pilot Project grant from Autism Speaks, Pennsylvania Department of Health Tobacco funds, and a gift from the F. M. Kirby Foundation. L.O’D. was supported by an NRSA Postdoctoral fellowship from NINDS.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Program in Immune Cell Development and Host DefenseFox Chase Cancer CenterPhiladelphiaUSA

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