What is new in pertussis?

Eur J Pediatr. 2008 Feb;167(2):133-9. doi: 10.1007/s00431-007-0548-2. Epub 2007 Aug 1.


Despite high vaccination coverage, over the last fifteen years there has been a worldwide resurgence of B. pertussis infection. While classical pertussis in the prevaccine era was primarily a childhood disease, today with widespread vaccination, there has been a shift in the incidence of disease to adolescents and adults. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data from 2004 reveal a nearly 19-fold increase in the number of cases in individuals 10-19 years and a 16-fold increase in persons over 20 years. Indeed adolescent and adults play a significant role in the transmission of pertussis to neonates and infants who are vulnerable to substantial morbidity and mortality from pertussis infection. Several explanations have been proposed to explain the increasing incidence of disease, with waning immunity after natural infection or immunization being widely cited as a significant factor. Improving molecular biology diagnostic techniques, namely PCR assays, also accounts for the increasing laboratory diagnosis of pertussis. Expanding vaccination strategies including universal immunization of adolescents, targeted immunization of adults, and in particular, healthcare workers, childcare providers and parents of newborns, will likely improve pertussis control. With pertussis continuing to pose a serious threat to infants, and greatly affecting adolescents and adults, there remains a need to: (a) increase the awareness of physicians as to the growing pertussis problem, (b) standardize diagnostic techniques, and (c) implement various new vaccine strategies to enhance its control.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bordetella pertussis*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Whooping Cough* / diagnosis
  • Whooping Cough* / drug therapy
  • Whooping Cough* / epidemiology
  • Whooping Cough* / prevention & control