It is often thought that whooping cough is an outdated disease, due to the many ways we now have to combat the pathogen, but every year almost 400,000 people die due to infection with Bordetella pertussis (1, 41). Bordetella pertussis is a gram-negative coccobacillus bacterium, which causes whooping cough in humans (1, 41). The bacterium is spread by air borne particles or mucus droplets and is highly contagious. Although there is no known reservoir for the pathogen humans can often be asymptomatic, due to vaccination or immunity, and can easily spread the disease from person to person through coughing or sneezing (1, 41). Once inhaled the pathogen enters the respiratory tract and attaches to the ciliated respiratory epithelium. There it secretes toxins, which damage host cells and lead to serious side effects (1, 41). The disease is most common in young children or infants and although there are preventative measures that can be taken, such as the DTaP vaccine, it is still the eighth leading cause of death worldwide by an infectious agent (1, 41). Infection with Bordetella pertussis can sometimes be hard to diagnosis and it is predicted that only 5 – 10 % on infections are recorded (1, 41). After infection with the disease there is a 5- to 10-day incubation period before the patient will exhibit any signs of the infection (1, 41). The resulting symptoms of whooping cough can vary in severity are classified into three distinct stages. The first stage is the initial catarrhal stage lasting about 1-2 weeks( 2, 1512). During this stage infected patients experience symptoms similar to that of the common cold. The second stage, termed the paroxysmal stage, is characterized by severe bouts of coughing, as many as 20 coughs in 15 second, that have a distinct whooping sound created by the sharp inhalation of air back into the lungs (2, 1512). The coughing spells at this stage can often lead to vomiting or can cause the patient to turn red or blue in the face. The final stage of the infection is termed the convalescence stage and consists of a less severe cough that can last for several months and increased susceptibility to secondary bacterial infections (2, 1512). There are preventative measures to prevent infection with Bordetella pertussis such as the DTaP vaccine, where acellular pertussis is combined with tetanus and diphtheria toxoids (1, 41). However this vaccination is a series and requires multiple vaccinations for full protection as well as booster shots of the vaccine throughout the lifespan. Infants and young children are most likely to be infected with this disease since they aren’t able to receive the vaccination series until they are at least 2 years old. For children that are too young to be vaccinated but are perceived to be at risk for developing the disease, immune serum globin can be given as a preventative measure (1, 41). Cases of whooping cough are also seen among teenagers and adults who fail to receive their booster vaccines and again become susceptible to the pathogen. Antibiotic resistance is very rarely seen with this infection, so most people diagnosed with whooping cough can be treated with Erythromycin, or another macrolide antibiotic that blocks the 70s ribosome (1, 41). However, in some cases complications can arise. Most complications are due to the severe coughing spells and include cracked ribs, abdominal hernias and in severe cases death due to lack of oxygen. Infants and young children are also at high risk of developing more serious side effects from the infection such as ear infections, pneumonia, lung collapse, brain damage, and encepatholpy (2, 1512). Infants often require hospitalization for treatment of the disease as well as supportive care (1, 41). In order to understand why Bordetella pertussis is such a severe and effective pathogen, it is important to understand the biology surrounding the bacteria. This includes how it enters, attaches, damages, avoids natural defenses,...
Cited: 1. Anderson, R. P. (2006). Outbreak: cases in real-world microbiology. Washington, D.C.: ASM Press
2. Babu, M. M., Bhargavi, J., Saund, R., & Singh, S. (2001). Virulence factors of Bordetella pertussis . Current Science, 80(12), 1512-1520
3.Van den Berg, B., Beekhuizen, H., Willems, R., Mooi, F., & Furth, R. V. (1999). Role of Bordetella pertussis Virulence Factors in Adherence to Epithelial Cell Lines Derived from the Human Respiratory Tract. Infection and Immunity, 67(3), 1056-1062.
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