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PLoS One. 2008 Jun 18;3(6):e2437. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002437.

Genomic content of Bordetella pertussis clinical isolates circulating in areas of intensive children vaccination.

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Institut Pasteur, Unité Prévention et Thérapie Moléculaires des Maladies Humaines, URA-CNRS 3012, Paris, France.



The objective of the study was to analyse the evolution of Bordetella pertussis population and the influence of herd immunity in different areas of the world where newborns and infants are highly vaccinated.


The analysis was performed using DNA microarray on 15 isolates, PCR on 111 isolates as well as GS-FLX sequencing technology on 3 isolates and the B. pertussis reference strain, Tohama I.


Our analyses demonstrate that the current circulating isolates are continuing to lose genetic material as compared to isolates circulating during the pre-vaccine era whatever the area of the world considered. The lost genetic material does not seem to be important for virulence. Our study confirms that the use of whole cell vaccines has led to the control of isolates that were similar to vaccine strains. GS-FLX sequencing technology shows that current isolates did not acquire any additional material when compared with vaccine strains or with isolates of the pre-vaccine era and that the sequenced strain Tohama I is not representative of the isolates. Furthermore, this technology allowed us to observe that the number of Insertion Sequence elements contained in the genome of the isolates is temporally increasing or varying between isolates.


B. pertussis adaptation to humans is still in progress by losing genetic material via Insertion Sequence elements. Furthermore, recent isolates did not acquire any additional material when compared with vaccine strains or with isolates of the pre-vaccine era. Herd immunity, following intensive vaccination of infants and children with whole cell vaccines, has controlled isolates similar to the vaccine strains without modifying significantly the virulence of the isolates. With the replacement of whole cell vaccines by subunit vaccines, containing only few bacterial antigens targeting the virulence of the bacterium, one could hypothesize the circulation of isolates expressing less or modified vaccine antigens.

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