Pertussis – Russia

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A frequently under-diagnosed bacterium, Bordetella holmesii, that causes symptoms similar to whooping cough has been found in Russia.

This disease is generally milder than whooping cough caused by Bordetella pertussis. Most of patients with the new infection had a cough, but it was paroxysmal in only 60% of cases.

Bordetella holmesii, first described in 1995, is believed to cause both invasive infections (bacteraemia, meningitis, endocarditis, pericarditis, pneumonia, and arthritis) and pertussis-like symptoms. Infection with B holmesii is frequently misidentified as being with B pertussis, the cause of whooping cough. Current PCR tests are commonly not specific to Bordetella holmesi.

While no fatal cases of B holmesii have been reported, associated invasive infections can cause substantial morbidities, even in previously healthy individuals. Moreover, antimicrobial treatment can be problematic because B holmesii’s susceptibility to macrolides and third-generation cephalosporins is lower than would be expected. B holmesii’s adaptation to human beings is continuing, and virulence might increase, causing the need for better diagnostic assays and epidemiological surveillance.

Photo: Bordetella pertussis micrograph

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis or the 100-day cough, is a highly contagious bacterial disease.

Initial symptoms are usually similar to those of the common cold with a runny nose, fever, and mild cough, but these are followed by weeks of severe coughing fits. The coughing may last for 10 or more weeks, hence the phrase "100-day cough". A person may cough so hard that they vomit, break ribs, or become very tired from the effort. Children less than one year old may have little or no cough and instead have periods where they do not breathe.

A vaccine exists but the disease may occur in those who have been vaccinated. Typically symptoms will be milder.

Outbreaks of the disease were first described in the 16th century. The bacterium that causes the infection was discovered in 1906. The pertussis vaccine became available in the 1940s

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