SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2016

FDA study helps explain rising rates of whooping cough

The United States Food and Drug Administration published a study on Nov. 25 in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that showed vaccines for acellular pertussis are effective, but do not protect against spreading the virus.

The study showed those who received the acellular vaccine may contract the virus without showing symptoms, and are able to pass the infection to others.

Two types of vaccines have been developed against Bordetella pertussis, which causes whooping cough.

The whole-cell vaccine uses the entire cell of the bacteria to produce an immune response.

The acellular vaccine uses selective portions of the bacteria to stimulate an immune response. Acellular vaccines were developed in response to concerns about side effects from the whole-cell vaccines.

"This study is critically important to understanding some of the reasons for the rising rates of pertussis and informing potential strategies to address this public health concern," Karen Midthun, the director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said. "This research is a valuable contribution and brings us one step closer to understanding the problem. We are optimistic that more research on pertussis will lead to the identification of new and improved methods for preventing the disease."

Whooping cough is a respiratory disease that may cause runny nose, sneezing and a mild cough. Typically, the cough becomes more severe and the patient may experience rapid, violent coughing followed by a sharp intake of breath, which causes a "whoop" sound. The disease may cause serious complications or permanent disability and death in infants and children.

Rates of the infections reached a 50-year high in 2012. The increase in reported cases is likely due to multiple factors, including decreased immunity from childhood vaccines and improved diagnostics.

"There were 48,000 cases reported last year despite high rates of vaccination," Anthony Fauci, the director of the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said. "This resurgence suggests a need for research into the causes behind the increase in infections and improved ways to prevent the disease from spreading."