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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2011 May;35(3):441-74. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2010.00257.x. Epub 2011 Jan 5.

Pertussis: a matter of immune modulation.

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Laboratory of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious, acute respiratory disease of humans that is caused by the Gram-negative bacterial pathogen Bordetella pertussis. In the face of extensive global vaccination, this extremely monomorphic pathogen has persisted and re-emerged, causing approximately 300,000 deaths each year. In this review, we discuss the interaction of B. pertussis with the host mucosal epithelium and immune system. Using a large number of virulence factors, B. pertussis is able to create a niche for colonization in the human respiratory tract. The successful persistence of this pathogen is mainly due to its ability to interfere with almost every aspect of the immune system, from the inhibition of complement- and phagocyte-mediated killing to the suppression of T- and B-cell responses. Based on these insights, we delineate ideas for the rational design of improved vaccines that can target the 'weak spots' in the pathogenesis of this highly successful pathogen.

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