Home Columns Asmau Ahmad writes on Bordetella Pertussis, King of Cough!

Asmau Ahmad writes on Bordetella Pertussis, King of Cough!

by hr

I was particularly excited about Bordetella Pertussis while I was undergoing some research on microbes. It is a small gram negative bacterium with many virulence factors (ability to cause disease). It lives in the mouth, nose, throat and trachea, and it is a very sneaky disease which confuses most of us with common cold symptoms. People mostly sit down at home and let this microbe makes severe cases out of their kids, so we have to learn to avoid regular doctor visits.

Bordetella Pertussis is a bacteria that causes Pertussis, it is also known as whooping cough. Pertussis is a highly contagious disease of the respiratory tract. Many who contract pertussis have coughing spells that last four to eight weeks. The disease is most dangerous in infants and spreads easily from child to child, mainly through droplets produced by coughing or sneezing.



The first symptoms generally appear 7–10 days after infection, and include mild fever, running nose , sneezing and cough, which in typical cases gradually develops into a paroxysmal cough (sudden attack of cough) followed by whooping (hence the common name of whooping cough), often with vomiting and cyanosis (abnormal blue coloration). In the youngest infants, the paroxysms may be followed by periods of apnoea (temporary seizure of breathing). Pneumonia is a relatively common complication; seizures and encephalopathy (abnormal brain function) occur more rarely. Also malnutrition and dehydration occurs due to vomiting.


Untreated patients of pertussis may be contagious for three weeks or more following onset of the cough. It is transmitted mainly by airborne droplets from the respiratory mucous membranes (mouth, nose and throat) of infected individuals.


Pertussis is generally treated with antibiotics and early treatment is very important. Treatment may make the infection less severe if it is started early, before coughing begins.


Pertussis can be prevented by immunization. The vaccines are mostly administered intramuscularly; also isolation of patients is needed during treatment to reduce transmissions. Hospitals are encouraged to vaccinate health-care workers, particularly maternity and paediatric staff.

Asmau Ahmad is a young female microbiologist and leaves in Kano, Nigeria. She can be reached via asmeee@yahoo.com

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