Tischer A, Santibanez S, Siedler A, Heider A, Hengel H (2004): Laboratory investigations are indispensable to monitor the progress of measles elimination - results of the German Measles Sentinel 1999-2003.
J. Clin. Virol. 31 (3): 165-178.
- BACKGROUND: The elimination of measles is a goal set by the World Health Organisation to be reached by 2010 in the European region. OBJECTIVES: To enhance the measles surveillance in Germany, a country-wide laboratory supported a sentinel was established. STUDY DESIGN: A network of >1200 representatively distributed practitioners reported detailed data on all clinically diagnosed cases and provided specimens for laboratory diagnosis. RESULTS: A total of 3225 suspected cases were reported between October 1999 and December 2003. The incidence in Western Germany decreased from >15 cases per 100,000 population to one case in 2003, while in Eastern Germany <1 case per 100,000 population was observed during these years. Laboratory investigations were undertaken in 40% of cases in 2000/2001. This rate increased to 79% in 2003. Simultaneously, the rate of confirmed cases dropped from 60% in the former years to 23% in 2003. Measles virus (MV) detection by serology and by PCR revealed concordant results in 92%. Most suspected cases (85%) were unvaccinated with 66% being laboratory confirmed. Only 10% of suspected cases occurred in vaccinated individuals and very few (22%) could be confirmed. Analyses of confirmed measles in vaccinated patients (n = 49) revealed 24.5% primary vaccine failures, 24.5% reinfections after successful vaccination and 31% MV infection before or shortly after vaccination. The genetic characterisation of 389 MV isolates identified eight genotypes: B3, C2, D4, D5, D6, D7, G2 and H1. Only the C2, D6 and D7 MV genotypes circulated endemically in Western Germany. The newly emerged MV D7 almost completely replaced the pre-existing C2 and D6 MVs in 2001. The few measles cases detected in Eastern Germany were mostly caused by imported MVs. CONCLUSION: The data demonstrate that laboratory investigations including molecular methods are an indispensable tool for surveillance in all countries advanced in measles elimination.