Seroepidemiology and phylogenetic characterisation of measles virus in Ireland, 2004-2013.

Saturday, 28th of November 2015 Print



Ireland is classified as an area of high measles incidence. A World Health Organisation-European Region strategic plan exists for measles elimination by 2015.


To retrospectively investigate measles outbreaks using all patient samples (sera and oral fluid) received for measles laboratory diagnosis and characterise the genetic diversity of circulating measlesgenotypes in Ireland.


704 cases of acute measles infection as determined by the presence of measles specific IgM in sera and oral fluids were confirmed at the National Virus Reference Laboratory. Measles positive samples (n=116) were examined by genotyping sequence analysis and phylogenetic characterisation.


Three measles outbreaks occurred over the study period: 2004 2009/2010 and 2011. Measles IgM positivity ranged from 22-29% in outbreak years to 5-10% in the intervening years. Age profile analysis revealed that whereas individuals >10 years accounted for only 8% of cases in the 2004 outbreak this increased to 33% and 29% in the 2009/2010 and 2011 outbreaks respectively. The <1 year cohort accounted for 18-20% of cases in all outbreaks. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated both indigenous transmission and also importation events. Clade D viruses were exclusively found circulating in Ireland with autochthonous transmission of diverse genotype D4 strains associated with large outbreaks across Europe. More recently genotype D8 was identified and these were associated with importation events.


This study provides a comprehensive genetic analysis of circulating measles genotypes in Ireland and discriminated between indigenous and imported viral strains. Notably an increase in laboratory-confirmed measles cases in the greater than 10 years of age group was seen over the study period. This information is valuable to inform vaccination strategies with a focus on those populations who remain susceptible to measles infection.


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