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 General Information: Measles
Genotyping Results United States
Genotyping Results: International
Measles Lab Manual (English)
Measles Lab Manual (Español)
Vero/SLAM cell line
Specimens for Measles Virus Isolation
Genetic Analysis
Guidelines for Naming
Strains or Sequences
Measles Strain Banks
 Genetic Characterization
and Sequencing


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Viral Isolation

Specimens for measles virus isolation

It is recommended that clinical samples (10-50 ml of urine; throat or nasopharyngeal swabs or nasal aspirates) for measles virus isolation be collected as soon after rash as possible. The sample should be collected at the first contact with a suspected case of measles when the serum sample for diagnosis is drawn. Measles virus isolation is most successful when samples are collected the first day of rash through the 3 days following onset of rash; however, virus is still present at least through day 7 following rash.

Guidelines for preserving samples for measles virus isolation
Measles virus is sensitive to heat, and infectivity decreases markedly when samples are not kept cold. It is important to transport samples with cold packs as soon as possible following sample collection.

Urine samples
Measles virus is present in acute cases of measles in the cells that have been sloughed off in the urinary tract. First-voided morning urine usually contains the highest concentration of these cells. Virus can be present in the urine even a few days before rash appears and begins to diminish a few days following rash.
For optimal virus preservation, centrifuge the urine sample and resuspend the sediment in 2-3 ml of sterile transport medium, tissue culture medium or phosphate-buffered saline and then hold at -70 C. Otherwise, keep the urine sample at 4 C and ship on cold packs as soon as possible to a laboratory that is able to perform viral isolation. Do not freeze large volumes (>5 ml) of urine that have not been centrifuged- just keep them cold.

Respiratory samples
For throat or nasal washes or swabs that are in very little fluid (1-4ml), the entire sample can be frozen at -70 C (but not dry; if needed add 2- 3 ml of the fluid mentioned above and rinse/ream swab to collect cells) or if low temperature freezers are not available, keep the sample at 4 C until shipment.

Avoid repeat freeze-thaw cycles or freezing at -20 C (standard freezer temp) because ice crystals can kill the virus. If -40 C or -70 C storage is not available, it is recommended to keep the sample in the refrigerator (4 C).

See the measles lab manual for additional information on specimens for measles.

Other sources of information for Measles surveillance
item Pan American Health Organization

Central Public Health Laboratory, UK

item Canada: Laboratory Centre for Disease Control
item Chile: Surveillance
item World Health Organization
Measles Initiative
Note: The links in this box lead outside the CDC site. Any links from these sites to nonfederal organizations links do not constitute an endorsement of these organizations or their programs by CDC or the federal government, and none should be inferred. CDC is not responsible for the content of the individual organization Web pages found at these links.

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This page last reviewed July 5, 2001

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