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Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2014 May;21(5):636-40. doi: 10.1128/CVI.00760-13. Epub 2014 Mar 5.

Serodiagnosis as adjunct assay for pertussis infection in São Paulo, Brazil.

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Immunology Center, Bacteriology Center, Instituto Adolfo Lutz, São Paulo, Brazil.


Pertussis remains an important public health problem in many countries despite extensive immunization. Cultures and real-time PCR (RT-PCR) assays are the recommended pertussis diagnostic tests, but they lack sensitivity at the later stage of the disease. This study introduces the IgG anti-pertussis toxin enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (PT ELISA) in our routine diagnosis to improve disease burden estimation. Serum samples and nasopharyngeal swabs (n = 503) were collected at the same time from patients presenting with cough illness suspected of being pertussis and tested by the PT ELISA and culture and/or RT-PCR, respectively. Patients were separated into three age groups: group 1, <1 year (n = 260; mean age, 3 months), group 2, 1 to 6 years (n = 81; mean age, 3 years), and group 3, ≥7 years (n = 162; mean age, 26 years). The times (means) from cough onset to specimen collection were 16, 24, and 26 days, respectively. In group 1, 83 (82.2%) of 101 positive cases were positive for pertussis by culture/RT-PCR, while 40 (39.6%) tested positive by PT ELISA. In group 2, 6 (19.4%) of 31 positive cases were culture/RT-PCR positive, and 29 (93.6%) were seropositive. In group 3, 13 (13.8%) of 94 positive cases were positive by culture/RT-PCR and 91 (96.8%) were positive by serology. Culture/RT-PCR detected more cases of pertussis in infants (P < 0.0001), whereas the PT ELISA detected more cases in adolescents and adults (P < 0.0001). The timing between cough onset and specimen collection or recent vaccination may have partially affected our results. Serology is a suitable, cost-effective, and complementary pertussis diagnostic tool, especially among older children, adolescents, and adults during the later disease phase.

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