The Attenuated Measles Vaccine and Mutant Measles Viruses

Measles - infectious virus disease. Word cloud sign.

by Sherri Tenpenny, DO, AOBNMM, ABIHM

Over the last several months we have heard about an outbreak of measles in New York State that is being described as the “worst outbreak since the 1990s.” The news has focused its attention on an Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn saying it has been “particularly hard hit.”

Just how many cases of measles are we talking about?

The CDC reports that between January 1 and August 29, 2019, there have been 1,234 confirmed cases of measles in 31 states. That, in comparison to the CDC’s 2018 report of 329 cases confirmed in 26 states and the District of Columbia. That’s only about twice as many as occurred in 2014 (667 cases), which contributed to the passage of SB 277, the egregious mandatory vaccination bill in California.

Why so much hysteria about relatively few cases of measles when, according to the most recent US census, 22.6% of the population is under 18 years of age. That equates to 73,939,840 kids.  As a percentage, the number of cases measles is not only statistically insignificant,  1,234 cases of measles are absolutely inconsequential.

What is measles?

Measles is a viral infection that includes a rash and a moderately high fever, lasting 7 to 10 days. After recovery, the person retains a lifetime of natural immunity.

For most people, that’s it.

In fact, the death rate from measles in the US in 1960 was only 2-3 cases per million; the measles vaccine was not released for use until 1963. In other words, measles was never a massive killer here in the US, even prior to the vaccine.  Instead, the infection was widely seen as a mild nuisance rather than a feared killer.  With virtually all children contracting the infection by 15 years of age, parents routinely held “measles parties,” similar to chickenpox parties, so their kids could contract the illness and get it out of the way.

Today, measles is promoted as a “deadly disease” by the medical and pharmaceutical establishments. Death from measles can occur but the scary statistics being bantered about in the US and EU about the measles deaths never point out that child mortality is directly proportional to the lack of adequate vitamin A, one of the world’s major malnutrition problems. The deficiency is most commonly found in children under the age of five years. The association between increased mortality and morbidity and vitamin A deficiency is strongest in children with measles. Vitamin A supplementation has long been documented to reduce mortality and complications resulting from measles.

Nonetheless, health officials wring their collective hands with concern over the collapse of herd immunity if a few dozen children remain unvaccinated.

Short History of the Measles Vaccine

The measles virus was first isolated in cell culture by Dr. John F. Enders, a studious microbiologist. During an outbreak of measles in 1954, a swab from was taken to Enders’ lab for evaluation. The young student from whom the original virus was isolated was David Edmonston; the viral strain henceforth has been named the Edmonston virus.

After several years of research and using various animal tissues to attenuate the virus, (more on that below), the virus was inoculated into measles-susceptible monkeys. When the monkeys were exposed to virulent, wild measles viruses, none of them contracted the infection. Considered a successful trial, the researchers plotted a way to test the attenuated virus in humans.

Just outside of Boston, a state institution for physically and intellectually challenged youngsters was selected for the first measles vaccine experiment. After a discussion with the school’s director, the parents of the children were asked if they would “feel comfortable with what we had in mind,” – an experiment using a new, barely tested measles vaccine on their handicapped children. Approximately 15 children were given over to the trial.

After the inoculation of the vaccine, Dr. Sam Katz, the co-developer of the vaccine and a nursing team examined the children twice daily for about 3 weeks. Five to 8 days after the inoculation, 13 of the 15 children developed a persistent fever and a “modified” rash, even though they did not appear overtly ill. When their blood revealed IgG antibodies to the measles virus, the experiment hailed as a success. Researchers in Denver, New Haven, Cleveland, New York, and Boston pursued similar experiments among institutionalized children. The results of serial trails were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1960.

Within a short period of time, many university groups and seven pharmaceutical firms in the United States and abroad began producing their versions of the Edmonston measles vaccine. Both the live-attenuated and formalin-inactivated vaccines were licensed in the United States on March 21, 1963. Over the next several years, it was reported that those who had been vaccinated with the formalin-inactivated vaccines and then exposed to wild measles developed horrific symptoms with long-lasting sequelae, termed “atypical measles.” Therefore, the live measles vaccine was withdrawn from use in the US in 1967. (pg.8)


In the words of Dr. Katz: (pg. 8)

“By 1967, millions of American children had received live-attenuated measles virus vaccines with no resultant central nervous system complications resembling SSPE, and annual measles cases had been reduced by more than 90%.  If the association of measles with SSPE had been appreciated prior to 1963, it is questionable whether licensure of a live-virus vaccine would have been so readily approved.”  

Most Serious Measles Complication: SSPE

Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a rare form of brain inflammation caused by a latent measles infection. The onset is insidious but progressive, lasting weeks to years. The average patient dies within 2 years of the onset of this disease, but in rare cases, patients have remained in the vegetative state for 10 years or more.

SSPE is said to be caused by an “aberrant” measles virus infection. The exact nature of these aberrations are not well understood, but viruses isolated from the brains and lymphoid tissues of SSPE patients demonstrated that the pathogen was not a typical, wild measles virus.  Back in the day when measles infected millions of children per year, the incidence of SSPE after natural measles infection range from 5 to 20 cases per 1 million children per year (Halsey et al., 1978). With the introduction of routine measles vaccination, the incidence of wild-type measles infection dropped dramatically and so did the incidence of SSPE.

If you search for information today about SSPE, you will find that nearly all references say something similar to this:

The central question that remains is whether the original measles virus infection involved a defective measles virus or whether the virus became altered during the prolonged period of latency in the host.

All publications stop short of blaming vaccine-strain measles from causing the catastrophic brain deterioration.

That said, in 1982, the CDC reported cases of SSPE after measles vaccination. Of the 634 suspected cases of SSPE reported between 1956 and 1981, 368 cases were confirmed. Of these, 202 had only a history of measles infection; 51 had a history of only measles vaccination and 63 had a history of both, with the natural illness most frequently preceding vaccination. Interestingly, 52 persons had no previous history of either natural measles or measles vaccination.

In 1994, the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) publication, “Adverse Events Associated with Childhood Vaccines: Evidence Bearing on Causality” dedicated an entire chapter to the measles and mumps vaccines. The IoM admitted:

SSPE is a recognized sequela of measles infection, and it is biologically plausible that it could occur after administration of the live attenuated viral vaccine. Identification of the cause of SSPE as wild-type or vaccine-strain measles virus has not been possible. The viruses isolated from patients with SSPE differ from the known measles viruses. The viruses may have become altered by the prolonged residence in the brains of the patients, or they may have been different at the time of the original infection.

…or perhaps, the viruses may have been altered by the very process used to weaken the measles virus for use in the MMR vaccine: the attenuation process. Could mutant viruses be causing mental disruption in children today leading to brain injuries that are equally as devastating, but less progressive than SSPE?

The Viral Attenuation Process

The process of attenuation is the serial passage of a virus – up to 100s of times –  through tissues to weaken its pathogenic virulence but still allows the foreign protein to stimulate an antibody response. The scientific literature admits that attenuation is a haphazard methodology that relies on trial and error, without any controls over the degree of attenuation. Additionally, attenuation creates an unknown quantity of mutant viruses. Any of these viruses – the original pathogen, its attenuated form or its mutant – may revert back to full virulence under specified conditions.

In the 1960s, the original measles virus was prepared by passing the virus through human kidney cells 24 times. When human kidney tissue was no longer readily available, Enders and his team passed the virus 28 times through human amniotic cells obtained from discarded placentas of live-birthed infants. The virus was then passed 13 times through eggs obtained from a supposedly pathogen-free flock. Today’s measles viruses are prepared using about 40 serial passages through chick embryo tissue culture, at an incubation temperature of from 28 to 32C.

After more than 100 years of use, little is actually known about how mutations arise or how the newly created viruses evolve in circulation. Viruses serially passed through animal tissues have the potential for incorporating tissue DNA or RNA into their genome. How similar is an attenuated measles virus to a wild measles virus, especially when, according to Paff (2018), “the underlying molecular bases of attenuation often remain cloudy.”

Viruses in the Vaccine

The World Health Organization (WHO) Measles and Rubella Laboratory Network (LabNet) has with laboratories in 183 countries. LabNet provides laboratory confirmation of suspected cases of measles and rubella and the viruses’ genetic characterization. The WHO currently recognizes 23 measles genotypes and 1 provisional genotype, d11. All measles vaccines belong to genotype A.

Called viral quantification, there are numerous techniques to count the number of viral particles in a specific volume of fluid. Tissue culture Infective Dose (TCID50) is a method for quantifying the amount of virus required to kill 50% of infected host cells or the amount of virus required to produce a cytopathic effect in 50% the tissue culture cells. According to the MMR-II package insert each 0.5mL dose contains not less than 1,000 TCID50 of measles virus;  20,000 TCID50 of mumps virus; and 1,000 TCID50 of rubella virus.

Several important questions come to mind:

  1. Is it possible to 100% ensure that all 1000 genotype A measles viruses are completely attenuated (weakened) before they are injected into the muscle of a vaccine recipient?
  2. If a live virus is injected, could this be why individuals have reported contracting the measles after the vaccine? And why individuals often report contracting the flu after being injected with an attenuated influenza vaccine?
  3. Is it possible to ensure the none of the genotype A viruses have mutated during the attenuation process?
  4. Are mutant viruses being injected along with what is supposedly a singular, genotype A measles virus?  Has anyone bothered to look?
  5. Could the inoculation of a mutant virus result in an unknown or unrecognized consequence?
  6. Since attenuation is an admittedly sloppy and uncontrolled process, what are the possible consequences for combining three or more live, attenuated viruses together in the same vial or administered at the same time?

A study documenting that these hazards are more than theoretical was published in 1986 in Science Magazine, sounding the alarm more than thirty years ago.

The study consisted of injecting two different avirulent (benign) herpes viruses into the footpads of mice. When a mouse received 100 particles of either Virus A or Virus B, none of the mice died. However, if a mouse received only one particle of both Virus A and Virus B, 62 percent of the mice died. In addition eleven newly created recombinant (mutant) viruses were isolated from the dead mice. When the recombinants were injected into the next set of mice, three of these viruses were found to be deadly. This study demonstrates that the simultaneous injection of two benign viruses can recombine with deadly results.

Vaccine Exuberance

The introduction of the measles vaccine in 1963 was met with celebratory glee, like the release of every vaccine since. By 1974, the measles vaccine had been incorporated into the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Expanded Programme of Immunization (EPI) along with BCG, OPV, and DTP. Efforts to further reduce measles infections on a global basis were launched in 2001 as the Measles Initiative, (pg 3) promoted by private-public partnerships between the American Red Cross, International Red Cross, the Red Crescent societies, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Foundation. 

The current push for mandatory vaccination, especially for 100% compliance with measles vaccination, lays bare the fact that physicians know nothing about medical history and even less about vaccine science. Our politicians are getting bad information and distorted advice from “experts” who know nothing about the facts – remember, most legislators have little or no background in healthcare. Sellouts, such as Senator Pan (D-CA) who shows his ignorance every time he opens his mouth (how in the world was he a practicing pediatrician?!) are leading children into a disastrous future.

The more you know, the more you can protect your family and your future. Never give up the fight to retain your right to information, education and your right to choose.


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