JAMA study finds whooping cough vaccine effective, safe for teens and adults

The Journal of the American Medical Association today announced that a study to be published in the June 22/29 issue found that a new vaccine against whooping cough is effective in teens and adults, carriers of the contagious respiratory disease so dangerous to infants. Until recently, teens and adults have been unable to be vaccinated with available pediatric whooping cough vaccines due to safety concerns.

Whooping cough, caused by B. pertussis bacteria, triggers violent coughing spells that may last for months in infants as mucous clogs their smaller air passages. A coughing spell may last so long that the child gasps for breath, making a whooping sound. In 1934, more than 265,000 cases were reported in the United States with nearly 8,000 deaths, mostly in children. In 2003, the number of deaths was 13.

Vaccination programs in children have reduced the threat, but the infection rate is now climbing rapidly among teens and adults. While the whooping cough, or pertussis, is less severe with age and often mistaken for bronchitis, teens and adults serve as reservoirs for infection in infants who are too young to be immunized. In addition, the complications of pertussis in some adults can include pneumonia, rib fractures and seizures. In 2004, nearly 19,000 new cases of mostly adult cases of pertussis were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up from 12,000 in 2003. Due to large-scale misdiagnosis, some experts believe that between one and two million U.S. adults and adolescents may now become infected annually.

"The arrival of a new combination vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis represents a major advance," said Michael Pichichero, M.D., lead investigator of the JAMA study and professor of Microbiology, Immunology, Pediatrics, and Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center. "Widespread use of the new acellular vaccines has the potential to counter a quadrupling of the

Contact: Greg Williams
University of Rochester Medical Center

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