Live pertussis vaccines: will they protect against carriage and spread of pertussis?

Clin Microbiol Infect. 2016 Dec 1:22 Suppl 5:S96-S102. doi: 10.1016/j.cmi.2016.05.029. Epub 2016 Oct 27.


Pertussis is a severe respiratory disease that can be fatal in young infants. Its main aetiological agent is the Gram-negative micro-organism Bordetella pertussis. Vaccines against the disease have been in use since the 1950s, and global vaccination coverage has now reached more than 85%. Nevertheless, the disease has not been controlled in any country, and has even made a spectacular come-back in the industrialized world, where the first-generation whole-cell vaccines have been replaced by the more recent, less reactogenic, acellular vaccines. Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain these observations, including the fast waning of acellular vaccine-induced protection. However, recent mathematical modelling studies have indicated that asymptomatic transmission of B. pertussis may be the main reason for the current resurgence of pertussis. Recent studies in non-human primates have shown that neither whole-cell, nor acellular vaccines prevent infection and transmission of B. pertussis, in contrast to prior exposure. New vaccines that can be applied nasally to mimic natural infection without causing disease may therefore be useful for long-term control of pertussis. Several vaccine candidates have been proposed, the most advanced of which is the genetically attenuated B. pertussis strain BPZE1. This vaccine candidate has successfully completed a first-in-man phase I trial and was shown to be safe in young male volunteers, able to transiently colonize the nasopharynx and to induce antibody responses to B. pertussis antigens in all colonized individuals. Whether BPZE1 will indeed be useful to ultimately control pertussis obviously needs to be assessed by carefully conducted human efficacy trials.

Keywords: Acellular vaccines; Live vaccines; Pertussis; Transmission; Whole-cell vaccines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier State / epidemiology
  • Carrier State / prevention & control*
  • Carrier State / transmission
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Pertussis Vaccine / administration & dosage
  • Pertussis Vaccine / adverse effects
  • Pertussis Vaccine / immunology*
  • Primates
  • Vaccines, Attenuated / administration & dosage
  • Vaccines, Attenuated / adverse effects
  • Vaccines, Attenuated / immunology
  • Whooping Cough / epidemiology
  • Whooping Cough / prevention & control*
  • Whooping Cough / transmission


  • Pertussis Vaccine
  • Vaccines, Attenuated