Quick Hits: Scientists Warn Whooping Cough is Evolving into a ‘Superbug’

The highly contagious bacterial disease that kills tens of thousands of people each year is getting tougher to fight.

Whooping Cough
Whooping Cough
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Whooping cough, aka the ‘100-day cough,’ is a bacterial disease that infects millions of people each year. The pertussis vaccine, developed in 1926, protects us from the Bordetella pertussis bacterium that causes the infection. However, according to a recent Science Alert article, B. pertussis strains are adapting to the vaccines to improve their survival. As one microbiologist stated, “Put simply, the bacteria that cause whooping cough are becoming better at hiding and better at feeding - they are morphing into a superbug.”

Analysis showed that strains of the bacteria are producing nutrient-binding proteins and transport proteins, but fewer immunogenic proteins. This means that B. pertussis is becoming more “metabolically fit” and can more effectively collect nutrients from hosts and avoid immune system responses. Current immunization medicines still work, but researchers think that new vaccines should be developed in the next 5-10 years to stay ahead of it.

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