After 50 years of mass immunisation, cases of whooping cough (pertussis) continue to rise. But why? It’s because the Vacs. actually encourages the growth of one of the bacterium responsible for the disease, researchers have discovered.

Whooping cough is caused by one of two forms of bacterium: the more common Bordetella pertussis – which the Vacs. deals with successfully – and Bordetella parapertussis.

Not only are the antigens in the Vacs. designed to exclusively eliminate the B.pertusiss bacteria, they create an environment that actively encourages and makes more potent the B.parapertussis bacteria.

Researchers from Sheffield University made the discovery when they measured the effectiveness of the acellular whooping cough Vacs. against the two bacteria; although it cleared the B.pertussis bacterium, there was a 40-fold increase in the B.parapertussis bacterium in the lungs. The Vacs. also blocks the body’s own immune system from fighting the bacterium.

(Source: Proc Biol Sci, 2010; 277 (1690): 2017-25)
Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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