Immunity to the respiratory pathogen Bordetella pertussis

Mucosal Immunol. 2012 Sep;5(5):485-500. doi: 10.1038/mi.2012.54. Epub 2012 Jun 20.


Bordetella pertussis causes whooping cough, a severe respiratory tract infection in infants and children, and also infects adults. Studies in murine models have shown that innate immune mechanisms involving dendritic cells, macrophages, neutrophils, natural killer cells, and antimicrobial peptides help to control the infection, while complete bacterial clearance requires cellular immunity mediated by T-helper type 1 (Th1) and Th17 cells. Whole cell pertussis vaccines (wP) are effective, but reactogenic, and have been replaced in most developed countries by acellular pertussis vaccines (aP). However, the incidence of pertussis is still high in many vaccinated populations; this may reflect sub-optimal, waning, or escape from immunity induced by current aP. Protective immunity generated by wP appears to be mediated largely by Th1 cells, whereas less efficacious alum-adjuvanted aP induce strong antibody Th2 and Th17 responses. New generation aP that induce Th1 rather than Th2 responses are required to improve vaccine efficacy and prevent further spread of B. pertussis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bordetella pertussis / immunology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Immunity
  • Mice
  • Pertussis Vaccine
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / immunology*
  • Th1 Cells / immunology*
  • Th1-Th2 Balance
  • Th17 Cells / immunology*
  • Whooping Cough / immunology*


  • Pertussis Vaccine