Posted by: Chris Maloney | July 20, 2012

Whooping Cough Outbreak: Mutation Or Loss of Immunity?

Vaccines research at the NVGH

Vaccines research at the NVGH (Photo credit: Novartis AG)

With the highest rate of whooping cough in decades, Disease Control specialists are looking for a reason.

The most likely one is the same one we’ve experienced with measles and mumps.  A vaccine given in the arm does not infer the same life long immunity created by having an actual infection.  So the answer is to boost the response by giving booster shots.

A more disturbing second possibility is that the whooping cough has mutated.  The new mutation is resistant to the immune response started by the vaccine.  In that case, we need an entirely new vaccine to deal with the mutation.  That would be the same model as the flu vaccine, but might start requiring annual vaccination.

What is not likely to be a factor is lack of vaccination.  Almost all the children had been vaccinated, it just wore off or wasn’t effective.  Switching to the new whooping cough vaccine because of side effects from the old one may have decreased side effects while decreasing effectiveness.

In looking at the literature on whooping cough, we see both mutation and a loss of antibodies, but we lack a large study detailing the primary problem.


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