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Clin Infect Dis. 2015 Jan 15;60(2):223-7. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciu788. Epub 2014 Oct 9.

Pertactin-negative Bordetella pertussis strains: evidence for a possible selective advantage.

Author information

  • 1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia.
  • 2Vermont Department of Health, Burlington.
  • 3Washington State Department of Health, Seattle.
  • 4Seattle Children's Hospital, Seattle, Washington.
  • 5Multnomah County Health Department, Portland, Oregon.
  • 6Minnesota Department of Health, St. Paul.
  • 7New York State Department of Health, Albany.
  • 8Connecticut Department of Health, Hartford.
  • 9Colorado Department of Health and Environment, Denver.
  • 10New Mexico Department of Health, Santa Fe.



A recent increase in Bordetella pertussis without the pertactin protein, an acellular vaccine immunogen, has been reported in the United States. Determining whether pertactin-deficient (PRN(-)) B. pertussis is evading vaccine-induced immunity or altering the severity of illness is needed.


We retrospectively assessed for associations between pertactin production and both clinical presentation and vaccine history. Cases with isolates collected between May 2011 and February 2013 from 8 states were included. We calculated unadjusted and adjusted odds ratios (ORs) using multivariable logistic regression analysis.


Among 753 isolates, 640 (85%) were PRN(-). The age distribution differed between cases caused by PRN(-) B. pertussis and cases caused by B. pertussis producing pertactin (PRN(+)) (P = .01). The proportion reporting individual pertussis symptoms was similar between the 2 groups, except a higher proportion of PRN(+) case-patients reported apnea (P = .005). Twenty-two case-patients were hospitalized; 6% in the PRN(+) group compared to 3% in the PRN(-) group (P = .11). Case-patients having received at least 1 pertussis vaccine dose had a higher odds of having PRN(-) B. pertussis compared with unvaccinated case-patients (adjusted OR = 2.2; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.3-4.0). When restricted to case-patients at least 1 year of age and those age-appropriately vaccinated, the adjusted OR increased to 2.7 (95% CI, 1.2-6.1).


The significant association between vaccination and isolate pertactin production suggests that the likelihood of having reported disease caused by PRN(-) compared with PRN(+) strains is greater in vaccinated persons. Additional studies are needed to assess whether vaccine effectiveness is diminished against PRN(-) strains.

Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Infectious Diseases Society of America 2014. This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US.


Bordetella pertussis; acellular vaccine; mutations; pertactin; waning immunity

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