Evidence shows that whooping cough is evolving into a ‘superbug’, scientists warn


It begins as a common cold, but does not end as such. Pertussis, also known as the “100-day cough,” is a highly contagious bacterial disease that infects millions of people around the world and kills tens of thousands every year.

Fortunately, vaccines to protect us from Bordetella pertussis The bacteria that causes pertussis has been around since the mid-twentieth century, protecting people from intense, sometimes fatal respiratory symptoms. Unfortunately, B. pertussis is not still

In a new global research, a team of Australian scientists discovered how B. pertussis The strains are adapting to the current acellular vaccine (ACV) used in Australia, which is similar to ACVs used for whooping cough in other countries of the world.

“We discovered that whooping cough strains were evolving to improve their survival, regardless of whether a person was vaccinated or not,” explains microbiologist Laurence Luu of UNSW.

“In a nutshell, the bacteria that cause whooping cough are becoming better for hiding and for feeding, they are transforming into a superbug.”

According to the findings, they used a technique called ‘surface shaving’ to analyze the proteins that involve B. pertussis At the cellular level, it was observed that the strains studied produced more nutrient binding proteins and transport proteins, but less immunogenic proteins, compared to previous research on the bacteria.

The researchers say these new changes in B. pertussis It means that the bacteria can be “metabolically more fit” than previous generations, and can more efficiently eliminate host nutrients, while avoiding host immune system responses.

Also, because the evolved forms may not trigger immune responses so much, it is possible that people are carrying an infection without realizing it, since they would show fewer symptoms.

“The bacteria could still colonize you and survive without causing the disease,” says Luu.

“You probably wouldn’t know that you’ve been infected with whooping cough bacteria because you don’t have the symptoms.”

The new study is based on multiple findings made by UNSW researchers in recent years, including the discovery that B. pertussis The strains in China were evolving through selection pressure, and that strains without a surface protein called pertactin (directed by pertussis vaccines) could have an evolutionary advantage.

Everything sounds pretty scary, and the latest research on superbugs in general indicates that they are already responsible for making 3 million people sick in the United States each year, of which some 35,000 do not survive the infection.

However, in terms of whooping cough, the UNSW team says there is no need to panic. B. pertussis It is not yet a superbug, and current immunization medications still work, but researchers emphasize that new vaccines should be developed in the next five to 10 years, to counteract the apparent ongoing changes in B. pertussis.

“At this time, vaccines are still very effective against current strains,” Luu said. The Sydney Morning Herald.

“In the future, we need a new vaccine to fight these strains as they continue to evolve.”

The findings are reported in Vaccine.



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