A study in Africa found that viral load was apparently reduced by almost two logs during acute measles infection in children. After they recovered from measles, the HIV viral load came back.1

Interpretation was complicated by the fact that no baseline viral loads were available for the children before they came down with measles. Instead, researchers measured viral load in children who had been hospitalized with measles, and found it surprisingly low -- a median of 5,339 copies. This compared to 387,000 copies in the same children at a one-month followup, after they had recovered from measles. A comparison group of children with HIV but without measles or other acute illness had a median viral load of 228,000.

This reduction was all the more remarkable since an illness like measles would be expected to raise the viral load if it did anything -- due to increased immune activation.


At least one other disease -- scrub typhus -- has also been found to suppress HIV, but only in some patients.2

Clearly we need research to identify the exact mechanism of viral suppression by measles or certain other diseases. It might be possible to use this knowledge to design a new class of treatment for HIV.


  1. Moss WJ, Ryon J. J., Monze M., Cutts F., Quinn T. C., and Griffin D. E. Suppression of human immunodeficiency virus replication during acute measles. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 2002; volume 185, pages 1035-1042.

  2. Watt G., Kantipong P., de Souza M., and others. HIV-1 suppression during acute scrub-typhus infection. The Lancet, August 5, 2000; volume 356, pages 475-479.

ISSN # 1052-4207

Copyright 2002 by John S. James. Permission granted for noncommercial reproduction, provided that our address and phone number are included if more than short quotations are used.