Exposure to measles in utero and Crohn's disease: Danish register study

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 17 January 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:196
  1. Lise Lotte W Nielsen, medical studenta,
  2. Nete Munk Nielsen, physiciana,
  3. Mads Melbye, professora,
  4. Morten Sodermann, physicianb,
  5. Marianne Jacobsen, physicianb,
  6. Peter Aaby, professora
  1. aDepartment of Epidemiology Research, Danish Epidemiology Science Centre, Statens Serum Institut, DK-2300 Copenhagen, Denmark
  2. bInstitute of Epidemiology and Social Medicine, Danish Epidemiology Science Centre, Aarhus, Denmark
  • Accepted 3 October 1997


It has been suggested that people exposed to measles in utero may be at high risk of developing Crohn's disease in adulthood.1 2 Swedish investigators have reported an increased incidence of Crohn's disease in individuals born shortly after a measles epidemic,3 and they later described four pregnant women with measles, three of whose offspring developed Crohn's disease as adults.4

Subjects, methods, and results

To test this surprisingly strong association we conducted a record linkage study in Denmark. Hospital records from the Blegdamshospital (until 1976 the main hospital for treatment of infectious diseases in Copenhagen county) for 1915-66 were screened to identify pregnant women aged 15-43 years with measles. Their children were identified through the Copenhagen civil register (or church registers for those born before 1923) and linked through their civil registration system numbers with the national hospital discharge, cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease registries. Offspring who died before 31 December 1995 were identified through death certificates. For those with a gastrointestinal diagnosis, we contacted the patient's doctor for more information. …

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