Bordetella pertussis

Microbiol Spectr. 2016 Jun;4(3). doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.EI10-0008-2015.


Pertussis is a highly infectious vaccine-preventable cough illness that continues to be a significant source of morbidity and mortality around the world. The majority of human illness is caused by Bordetella pertussis, and some is caused by Bordetella parapertussis. Bordetella is a Gram-negative, pleomorphic, aerobic coccobacillus. In the past several years, even countries with high immunization rates in early childhood have experienced rises in pertussis cases. Reasons for the resurgence of reported pertussis may include molecular changes in the organism and increased awareness and diagnostic capabilities, as well as lessened vaccine efficacy and waning immunity. The most morbidity and mortality with pertussis infection is seen in infants too young to benefit from immunization. Severe infection requiring hospitalization, including in an intensive care setting, is mostly seen in those under 3 months of age. As a result, research and public health actions have been aimed at better understanding and reducing the spread of Bordetella pertussis. Studies comparing the cost benefit of cocooning strategies versus immunization of pregnant women have been favorable towards immunizing pregnant women. This strategy is expected to prevent a larger number of pertussis cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in infants <1 year old while also being cost-effective. Studies have demonstrated that the source of infection in infants usually is a family member. Efforts to immunize children and adults, in particular pregnant women, need to remain strong.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bordetella pertussis / classification*
  • Bordetella pertussis / pathogenicity*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pertussis Vaccine / therapeutic use*
  • Vaccination
  • Whooping Cough / diagnosis
  • Whooping Cough / epidemiology*
  • Whooping Cough / pathology*
  • Whooping Cough / prevention & control


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Pertussis Vaccine