Researchers are claiming this week that they have discovered the cause of the recent upsurge in whooping cough cases, pinning the outbreak to changes made to vaccine ingredients.
With an alarming rise in the number of whooping cough cases since 2012, researchers looked at a number of different factors that may have been involved in the latest outbreak of the condition, which is also known as pertussis.
In the study, which was published today in the health journal PLOS ONE Computational Biology, researchers looked at extensive data from cases dating from 1950 to 2009, and found that the upsurge is – at least in part – down to the change in ingredients.
While medics had been using a ‘whole-cell’ vaccination for years, in 1991 researchers developed a new ‘acellular’ vaccine that, unlike its predecessor, does not contain dead bacterial cells. This newer vaccine was generally found to be less effective.
Now, the researchers who conducted the latest study say that the lower level of immunity in the group of children affected by the recent outbreak corresponds with the fact that they were among the first to be entirely vaccinated using the acellular vaccine.
Commenting on the findings, researcher Dr Pritish Tosh said: “In the long run, we may need to have newly-designed pertussis vaccines that give a broader and longer-lasting protection.”
The researchers added that, in the meantime, people should continue to get the current vaccine, both to protect themselves and those infants who haven’t yet received the vaccine.