We studied 19 patients with postinfectious encephalomyelitis complicating natural measles-virus infections, and our results support the hypothesis that this demyelinating disease has a pathogenesis similar to that of experimental allergic encephalomyelitis. Early myelin destruction was demonstrated by the presence of myelin basic protein in cerebrospinal fluid, and lymphocyte proliferative responses to myelin basic protein were found in 8 of 17 patients tested. A lack of intrathecal synthesis of antibody against measles virus suggests that measles encephalomyelitis may not be dependent on virus replication within the central nervous system. Similar lymphoproliferative responses to myelin basic protein of lymphocytes from single patients with encephalomyelitis after rabies vaccine or after varicella or rubella virus infections suggest a common immune-mediated pathogenesis for the perivenular demyelinating disease that can follow the injection of neural tissues or infection by a variety of viruses.
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