A new drug could pave the way for a measles pill that cures infections and stops them spreading.
In early tests, the drug – ERDRP-0519 – halted symptoms in infected ferrets and prevented their deaths.
The drug is administered by mouth, raising the prospect of turning it into an easy-to-take pill or capsule.
Scientists believe it could be used to curb measles outbreaks by treating people who have not yet developed symptoms but may have caught the virus from a friend, relative or other social contact.
A major advantage is that while fighting the virus the drug allows strong natural immunity to develop in those who are infected.
“The emergence of strong anti-viral immunity in treated animals is particularly encouraging, since it suggests that the drug may not only save an infected individual from disease, but contribute to closing measles immunity gaps in a population,” said US researcher Dr Richard Plemper, from Georgia State University.
Measles was virtually eradicated in the UK after the introduction of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine in 1988.
But in recent years it has made a comeback as a result of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children.