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Rev Infect Dis. 1991 Nov-Dec;13(6):1216-20.

Seroepidemiology of pertussis in Italy.

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Department of Hygiene and Microbiology University of Palermo, Rome.


During 1988 and 1989 the prevalence of serum IgG antibodies to pertussis toxin in a sample of 3,875 unvaccinated, apparently healthy persons between the ages of 1 year to 19 years was estimated by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The participants were recruited by means of systematic cluster sampling from public and private schools in five geographic areas of Italy. The overall prevalence of IgG antibodies was 80.8%, with a steady increase from 33.5% among 1- to 3-year-old children to 95% among 17- to 19-year-old individuals. The prevalence of natural immunity was 50% and 75% at the ages of 4 and 6 years, respectively. No gender-related difference in immunity was observed. For children greater than 10 years of age, the seroprevalence of pertussis antibodies was significantly higher in northern regions than in southern regions until the age of 17-19 years, when the pattern reversed. There was no association of a child's immune status with the father's number of years of schooling or with family size. For children aged 1-3 years, serologic studies showed that the history of pertussis reported by parents in questionnaires was highly specific (97.6%) in predicting antibody status, with positive and negative predictive values of 90.5% and 79.2%, respectively. However, 20.8% of children had antibodies to pertussis toxin even though they had no history of whooping cough.

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