Evidence of persistent measles virus infection in Crohn's disease.
Transmission electron microscopy was used to examine the microvasculature of perfusion-fixed tissues from Crohn's disease and control patients. Paramyxovirus-like particles, and inclusions consisting of condensations of nucleocapsid, in giant cells and endothelium at foci of vascular injury were identified in all 9 Crohn's disease patients. Tissues from patients with Crohn's disease were also examined by either in situ hybridisation (n = 10) or immunohistochemistry (n = 15), and compared to inflammatory and noninflammatory controls (n = 22). Hybridisation for measles virus N-protein genomic RNA was positive in all cases of Crohn's disease localising to foci of granulomatous vasculitis and lymphoid follicles. Positive immunohistochemical staining for measles virus nucleocapsid protein was positive in 13 of 15 patients with Crohn's disease, localising to foci of granulomatous inflammation. Hybridisation for measles virus RNA was positive in a minority of control intestinal tissues; viral inclusions were not seen ultrastructurally. Immunostaining was negative in control cases of intestinal tuberculosis. These observations suggest that measles virus is capable of causing persistent infection of the intestine and that Crohn's disease may be caused by a granulomatous vasculitis in response to this virus.