This information is provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD).
Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) a rare condition that is caused by a measles infection acquired earlier in life. Signs and symptoms of the condition primarily affect the central nervous system and often develop approximately 7 to 10 years after a person recovers from the measles. Affected people may initially experience behavioral changes, dementia, and disturbances in motor function. In the late stages of the disease, affected people often progress to a comatose state, and then to a persistent vegetative state. Ultimately, many people with SSPE succumb to fever, heart failure, or the brain’s inability to continue controlling the autonomic nervous system. It is unclear why some people develop SSPE after they have seemingly recovered from the measles while others do not. Researchers suspect that SSPE may be due to an abnormal immune response or a mutant form of the measles virus that causes a persistent infection within the central nervous system. Treatment is supportive and primarily based on the signs and symptoms present in each person. Recent studies have shown that certain medications (called antiviral and immunomodulatory drugs) may slow the progression of the condition, although the best treatment regimen and their long-term effects in people with SSPE are currently unknown.
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