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Extensive cytological damage caused by measles in African children
  1. Ulla Gripenberg*,
  2. C. Forbes
  1. International Agency for Research on Cancer, Nairobi Regional Centre, Nairobi, Kenya
  2. International Agency for Research on Cancer, Kenyatta National Hospital, Nairobi, Kenya


    The occurrence of mitotic and chromosomal aberrations was examined in cultured lymphocytes from 25 African children suffering from acute measles at an early stage (0-5 days after onset of rash).

    In eight cases the mitotic response to phytohaemagglutinin was impaired. In two cases extensive changes were observed, involving the formation of giant polykaryotic syncytia with chromosome pulverization. It is suggested that the development of giant cells in vivo and the damage to epithelial membranes characteristic of severe measles in the tropics are to be correlated with these changes.

    A varying incidence of minor chromosome aberrations, mostly small gaps, was found in 15 cases of measles as well as in controls. The specific relationship of this type of aberration to the virus is questionable.

    Mitotic activity was induced in two replicate lymphocyte cultures in the absence of phytohaemagglutinin.

    The possible oncogenic potential of the measles virus is discussed in connection with the fusion-pulverization phenomenon.

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    • * Present address: Department of Genetics, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.