Getting measles ‘resets’ the body’s immune system

In this April 2019 photo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a news conference declaring a public health emergency in parts of Brooklyn in response to a measles outbreak. Health experts are saying measles, which is once more on the rise globally, is more harmful than previously thought. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo)
Updated 01 November 2019

Getting measles ‘resets’ the body’s immune system

  • Netherlands study shows the virus erases the body’s memory of previous pathogens, effectively wiping its immunity memory

WASHINGTON: Measles, the contagious childhood disease that is once more on the rise globally, is more harmful than previously thought.
A new analysis of 77 unvaccinated children from the Netherlands carried out by an international team of researchers led by scientists at Harvard has found that the virus erases the body’s memory of previous pathogens — effectively wiping its immunity memory.
The virus eliminated between 11 and 73 percent of the children’s protective antibodies, blood proteins responsible for “remembering” previous encounters with disease, the team wrote in the journal Science on Thursday.
This left some of the children with immunity close to that of a newborn baby.


“It sort of resets your immune system back to sort of a more naive state,” Harvard epidemiologist and coauthor Michael Mena told AFP.
In order to rebuild their defenses, they will need to be exposed to numerous pathogens as they were in their infancy, he added.
To validate their result, the team then carried out experiments on macaque monkeys, with the animals losing 40-60 percent of their protective antibodies.
“The virus is much more deleterious than we realized, which means the vaccine is that much more valuable,” said study coauthor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator Stephen Elledge.

 


Japan spacecraft starts yearlong journey home from asteroid

Updated 13 November 2019

Japan spacecraft starts yearlong journey home from asteroid

  • The spacecraft will travel 180 million miles on its journey back to Earth
  • It will bring back soil samples that provide clues to life in space

TOKYO: Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft departed from a distant asteroid on Wednesday, starting its yearlong journey home after successfully completing its mission to bring back soil samples and data that could provide clues to the origins of the solar system, the country’s space agency said.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said the spacecraft left its orbit around the asteroid Ryugu, about 300 million kilometers (180 million miles) from Earth.
Hayabusa2 on Wednesday captured and transmitted to Earth one of its final images of Ryugu, or “Dragon Palace,” named after a sea-bottom castle in a Japanese folk tale, as it slowly began moving away from its temporary home, JAXA said. Hayabusa2 will continue its “farewell filming” of the asteroid for a few more days.
Then Hayabusa2 will adjust its position on around Nov. 18 after retreating 65 kilometers (40 miles) from the asteroid and out of its the gravitational pull. It will then receive a signal from JAXA to ignite a main engine in early December en route to the Earth’s vicinity.
Hayabusa2 made touchdowns on the asteroid twice, despite difficulties caused by Ryugu’s extremely rocky surface, and successfully collected data and samples during its 1½-year mission since arriving there in June 2018.
In the first touchdown in February, it collected surface dust samples. In July, it collected underground samples for the first time in space history after landing in a crater it had earlier created by blasting the asteroid surface.
Hayabusa2 is expected to return to Earth in late 2020 and drop a capsule containing the precious samples in the Australian desert.
It took the spacecraft 3½ years to arrive at the asteroid, but the journey home is much shorter thanks to the current locations of Ryugu and Earth.
JAXA scientists believe the underground samples contain valuable data unaffected by space radiation and other environmental factors that could tell more about the origin of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.
Asteroids, which orbit the sun but are much smaller than planets, are among the oldest objects in the solar system and may help explain how Earth evolved. Hayabusa2 scientists also said they believe the samples contain carbon and organic matter and hope they could explain how they are related to Earth.