Whooping cough shot cuts illness, maybe not spread
ATLANTA — A government study offers a new theory on why the whooping cough vaccine doesn't seem to be working as well as expected.
The research suggests that while the vaccine may keep people from getting sick, it doesn't prevent them from spreading whooping cough — also known as pertussis — to others.
“It could explain the increase in pertussis that we're seeing in the U.S.,” said one of the researchers, Tod Merkel of the Food and Drug Administration.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious disease that can strike people of any age but is most dangerous to children. It was once common, causing hundreds of thousands of illnesses annually and thousands of deaths. But after a vaccine was introduced in the 1940s, cases dropped to fewer than 5,000 a year.
The vaccine was replaced in the 1990s because of side effects that included pain and swelling from the shot and fever. The newer vaccine is part of routine childhood vaccinations as well as adult booster shots.
But cases have rebounded. Last year was the nation's worst for whooping cough in six decades. Health officials received reports of more than 48,000 cases, including 18 deaths.
Some studies have concluded the newer vaccine doesn't last as long as the old one. But a study by Merkel and his colleagues offers a new wrinkle.
Their research used baboons, considered the most humanlike model for studying whooping cough. Baboons at ages 2, 4 and 6 months were vaccinated and then exposed to whooping cough at 7 months — when vaccine protection would be new and strong.
The baboons didn't get sick, but they had high levels of bacteria in their respiratory system for five weeks, which suggest they were contagious for about that long. Some baboons given the old vaccine had low levels after two weeks.
That's a big-deal finding because it was thought that people only spread the disease when they had coughs and other symptoms, said Dr. Erik Hewlett, a University of Virginia whooping cough researcher who was not involved in the FDA study but has collaborated with Merkel.
The study was published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 12 missing after flooding in Texas sweeps away vacation home
- Doctors, hospitals get more time to convert to electronic health records
- Obama gets state, local allies for key initiatives
- EPA expected to expand protection of streams, wetlands
- Rescuers find stranded woman in California desert, too late for husband
- Children tossed, injured, from bounce house sent airborne by waterspout in Florida
- Ohio’s largest road project to cost 3 times its estimate
- BP credited with gulf tourism boom
- Biden reassures Iraq: U.S. backs your forces in fight against Islamic State
- Wife, brother accused in man’s hatchet killing
- Senate committee backs vets’ rights to marijuana