Human Contagion Studies in Measles

In 1905, Ludvig Hektoen reports that he was able to successfully infect two healthy people with the blood of infected measles patients(1). It should be noted that the blood was mixed with other substances, such as ascites fluid before it was injected. This experiment is considered to be the best evidence that proves beyond any doubt that the measles virus causes disease(2). There are few specific details about the signs and symptoms that these patients actually exhibited, so there is some doubt as to whether they really had measles(3).

In 1915, Charles Herman swabbed the nasal mucosa of 40 infants with cotton buds covered in the nasal secretions of infected measles patients. The majority of the infants had no reaction, 15 infants had a slight rise in body temperature and a “few” were said to develop some red spots on their skin. At 1 year of age, 4 of these infants had intimate contact with infected people. None of the infants became sick and this is said to be due to the infants having “immunity”(4).

In 1919, Sellards tried to inoculate 8 healthy men (with no previous exposure to measles) with the blood of measles patients, using the same methods as Hektoen. None of the men became sick(3,5). It is interesting reading the authors commentary, where he describes how he intensified his efforts to try and infect the patients, but was still unable to infect them. A few weeks later, the volunteers were exposed to an infected measles case, yet none of them became sick. Nasal secretions were then taken from measles patients and syringed up in to the nasal passages of the healthy participants. None became sick(3,5).

Sellards also conducted another experiment to try and infect another 2 healthy human volunteers with measles by injecting them subcutaneously and intramuscularly with the blood of two infected patients. Neither man became sick(3,5).

In 1919, Alfred Hess makes a comment about Sellards results. He states “It is remarkable that Sellards was unable to produce this highly infectious disease by means of the blood or nasal secretions of infected individuals, not long ago I was confronted with a similar experience with chicken pox”. He then goes on to say “Thus we are confronted with two diseases, the two most infectious of the endemic diseases in this part of the world, which we are unable to transmit artificially from man to man”(10).

In 1924, Harry Bauguess wrote a paper and stated “A careful search of the literature does not reveal a case in which the blood from a patient having measles was injected into the blood stream of another person and produced measles”. He reports two cases where he observed people contract measles from blood transfusions.

In one case a critically ill 9-month-old child received a blood transfusion from her mother, who was in perfect health. Approximately 13 days later, the child developed a rash and the diagnosis of measles was made. The child then developed bronchopneumonia and died about 10 days later. Bauguess explains that the reason why the child contracted measles, was because two days after the transfusion, the mother developed measles. It was concluded the child contracted measles from the mothers blood(6).

In a second case, Bauguess reports another critically ill child who was 3-months-old receiving a blood transfusion. The mother was in perfect health at the time of the transfusion. The child seemed to be recovering, however about 10 days later the child began to become ill again and developed a rash, which was diagnosed as measles. Just like the previous case, two days after the transfusion, the mother developed measles. It was said that the child contracted measles from the mothers blood(6).


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