Pertactin-negative Bordetella pertussis strains in Canada: characterization of a dozen isolates based on a survey of 224 samples collected in different parts of the country over the last 20 years.

To detect and characterize pertactin-negative Bordetella pertussis in Canada, especially for isolates collected in recent years.


A total of 224 isolates from the years 1994-2013 were screened by Western immuno-blot for expression of pertactin. Pertactin-negative isolates were characterized by serotyping, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), and genotyping of their pertactin, fimbriae 3, pertussis toxin subunit 1, and pertussis toxin gene promoter region, as well as the complete sequence of the pertactin gene.


Twelve isolates were pertactin-negative, giving an overall prevalence of 5.4%. However, no such isolate was found prior to 2011 and 17.8% of 62 isolates examined in 2012 were pertactin-negative. Ten pertactin-negative isolates contained a significant mutation in their pertactin (prn) genes. IS481 was found in the prn genes of eight isolates, while a single point mutation occurred either in the coding region (resulting in a premature stop codon) or in the promoter region (preventing gene transcription) in two other isolates. PFGE analysis also showed multiple profiles suggesting that several independent genetic events might have led to the emergence of these pertactin-negative strains rather than expansion of a single clone.


As reported elsewhere, pertactin-negative B. pertussis has emerged in Canada in recent years, notably in 2012. This coincided with an increase in pertussis activity in Canada. A further systematic study with a larger geographical representative sample is required to determine how these vaccine-negative strains may contribute to the overall changing epidemiology of pertussis in Canada.


Authors:Tsang RS1, Shuel M2, Jamieson FB3, Drews S4, Hoang L5, Horsman G6, Lefebvre B7, Desai S8, St-Laurent M8.

Journal:Int J Infect Dis. 2014