A comparison of laboratory and clinical methods for diagnosing pertussis in an outbreak in a facility for the developmentally disabled

J Infect Dis. 1988 Mar;157(3):441-9. doi: 10.1093/infdis/157.3.441.


During a pertussis outbreak in a facility for the developmentally disabled, culture- or direct fluorescent-antibody-confirmed cases were identified in 24 residents and 17 staff members; 38 (93%) were culture positive for Bordetella pertussis. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was used to detect serum IgG and IgA to the filamentous hemagglutinin and lymphocytosis-promoting factor of B. pertussis. Using criteria from ELISA values, we identified an additional 83 residents and 28 staff members as seropositive. Among seropositive persons, antibody levels were elevated by the time of onset of respiratory symptoms and, in three of the four assays, remained elevated for 14 mo. In 44 seropositive persons tested within two weeks of onset of symptoms, 80% were culture positive, compared with 33% of 15 tested two to four weeks after onset (P = .003) and none of 15 tested more than four weeks after onset. The most specific (94%) clinical case definition identified only 41% of seropositive persons. Thus, ELISAs are important tools for individual diagnosis and epidemiological studies of pertussis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Bacterial / analysis
  • Bordetella pertussis / immunology
  • Bordetella pertussis / isolation & purification
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Institutionalization*
  • Intellectual Disability*
  • Whooping Cough / diagnosis*
  • Whooping Cough / epidemiology


  • Antibodies, Bacterial