Pertussis: Where did we go wrong and what can we do about it?

Pertussis or whooping cough, mainly caused by the Gram-negative coccobacillus Bordetella pertussis, is a severe respiratory disease that can by life-threatening especially in young infants. It has recently made a spectacular come-back in high vaccination-coverage countries, such as the US, Australia and many European countries. Although a trend towards increased pertussis incidence was already visible before the switch from whole-cell to acellular vaccines, it was really since the introduction of the acellular vaccines that the number of cases reached record highs. Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain these observations. Unexpectedly fast waning of acellular vaccine-induced protection may be one of the major reasons. Furthermore, evidence from a recent non-human primate model suggests that acellular vaccines, although protective against pertussis disease, do not protect against B. pertussis infection, which may explain many of the current observations on the resurgence of pertussis. Optimized use of current vaccines has been explored, including cocoon vaccination of persons in close contact with newborn infants, neonatal vaccination and maternal immunization during pregnancy. All have their inherent limitations. New vaccines are therefore desperately needed, and current efforts have been geared towards the identification of novel antigens and adjuvants to prolong immunity and ameliorate protection. The most advanced vaccine candidate is live attenuated nasal BPZE1, a genetically modified B. pertussis derivative that has recently completed a first-in-man phase I trial and was shown to be safe in young male volunteers, able to transiently colonize the naso-pharynx and to induce antibody responses to B. pertussis antigens. This vaccine candidate is designed to protect against both pertussis disease and B. pertussis infection and may therefore be useful for long-term control of pertussis.

Author:Locht C1.
Journal:J Infect. 2016