Pertactin-negative bordetella pertussis strains: Evidence for a possible selective advantage

Stacey W. Martin, Lucia Pawloski, Margaret Williams, Keeley Weening, Chas Debolt, Xuan Qin, Laura Reynolds, Cynthia Kenyon, Gregory Giambrone, Kathy Kudish, Lisa Miller, David Selvage, Adria Lee, Tami H. Skoff, Hajime Kamiya, Pamela K. Cassiday, Maria L. Tondella, Thomas A. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


Background. A recent increase in Bordetella pertussis without the pertactin protein, an acellular vaccine immunogen, has been reported in the United States. Determining whether pertactin-deficient (PRN-) B. pertussis is evading vaccine-induced immunity or altering the severity of illness is needed. Methods. We retrospectively assessed for associations between pertactin production and both clinical presentation and vaccine history. Cases with isolates collected between May 2011 and February 2013 from 8 states were included. We calculated unadjusted and adjusted odds ratios (ORs) using multivariable logistic regression analysis. Results. Among 753 isolates, 640 (85%) were PRN-. The age distribution differed between cases caused by PRN-B. pertussis and cases caused by B. pertussis producing pertactin (PRN +) (P =.01). The proportion reporting individual pertussis symptoms was similar between the 2 groups, except a higher proportion of PRN + case-patients reported apnea (P =.005). Twenty-two case-patients were hospitalized; 6% in the PRN + group compared to 3% in the PRN-group (P =.11). Case-patients having received at least 1 pertussis vaccine dose had a higher odds of having PRN-B. pertussis compared with unvaccinated case-patients (adjusted OR = 2.2; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.3-4.0). When restricted to case-patients at least 1 year of age and those age-appropriately vaccinated, the adjusted OR increased to 2.7 (95% CI, 1.2-6.1). Conclusions. The significant association between vaccination and isolate pertactin production suggests that the likelihood of having reported disease caused by PRN-compared with PRN + strains is greater in vaccinated persons. Additional studies are needed to assess whether vaccine effectiveness is diminished against PRN-strains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-227
Number of pages5
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Bordetella pertussis
  • acellular vaccine
  • mutations
  • pertactin
  • waning immunity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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