Mérieux Foundation event

Pertussis: biology, epidemiology and prevention

11 - 13 November 2015 - Les Pensieres Center for Global Health, Veyrier-du-Lac (France)


Pertussis, commonly called whooping cough, is a highly infectious disease that was previously a universal rite of passage for older infants and young children. The discovery in 1906 of its causative organism, Bordetella pertussis, led to the development of whole-cell pertussis (wP) vaccines, which by the 1930s were combined with diphtheria (D) and tetanus (T) toxoids. Countries that instituted broad DTwP vaccination programs beginning in the mid-20th century saw pertussis dramatically decrease over subsequent decades. However, concerns over reactogenicity prompted some parents to refuse wP-containing vaccines for their children and some countries to cancel their programs altogether. Less reactogenic acellular pertussis (aP) vaccines were developed to address these concerns. They were deployed in Japan nearly 35 years ago, North America and much of Europe about 15 to 20 years ago, and more recently in some other middle- and high-income countries.

During the last 5 years, multiple countries (eg, Australia, UK, US) have experienced substantial increases in reported cases of pertussis. Cases among very young infants who are at greatest risk of pertussisrelated hospitalizations and mortality were most alarming. Multiple hypotheses have been posited for the current challenges with pertussis, including:

  • More sensitive diagnostic tests combined with greater pertussis disease awareness;

  • Inadequate vaccination schedules and poor compliance with vaccination recommendations;

  • Evolution of circulating pertussis strains to evade vaccine-induced immunity;

  • Suboptimal priming by and decreased duration of protection from acellular compared to whole-cell pertussis vaccines.

The purpose of this seminar is to bring together experts and interested individuals to:

  • Explore the latest trends in pertussis epidemiology;

  • Better understand the reasons for these trends;

  • Discuss potential ways in which pertussis vaccines might be improved and the practicalities of their introduction into routine use;

  • Formulate recommendations for optimal use of current vaccines, with a particular focus on strategies to minimize severe morbidity and mortality among infants during the first months of life.

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Wednesday 11 November

Thursday 12 November

Friday 13 November


Session 1 Biology of infection with Bordetella Pertussis: diagnosis


Session 2 Epidemiology of Bordetella Pertussis - Effect of vaccination


  • 11:30 - 11:50

    Overview of Pertussis epidemiology in the US and impact of vaccination

    Stacey MARTIN

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  • 14:00 - 14:20

    Epidemiology of Pertussis in Australia - The effect of vaccinations and cocooning

    Helen QUINN

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  • 14:30 - 14:50

    Epidemiology and control of Pertussis in England: The impact of maternal immunisation


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  • 15:00 - 15:20

    Epidemiology of Pertussis in Africa. Maternal immunization as a possible strategy for prevention

    Marta NUNES

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  • 16:00 - 16:20

    The influence of maternal antibodies on active pertussis infant vaccination-human challenge studies (project)

    Scott HALPERIN

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  • 16:30 - 16:50

    Pertussis vaccination during pregnancy: immunological effects in pregnant women, young infants and breast milk composition


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  • 17:00 - 17:20

    Vaccination of neonates: a study in Australia

    Peter McINTYRE

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  • 17:30 - 18:45

    General discussion on waning of immunity to Pertussis

    Facilitator : Liz MILLER with the participation of speakers in session 2

Session 3 Improving vaccination strategies with current vaccines; Development of new vaccines, some examples.


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