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New insights for improved pertussis vaccines - Press release -

Researchers in Bilthoven, The Netherlands, have recently unraveled the defense against whooping cough bacteria in unprecedented detail. The outcome of the project, conducted at Intravacc (Institute for Translational Vaccinology) in Bilthoven, provides opportunities for a new approach in the development of improved whooping cough vaccines. The results have been published in PLoS ONE.

A new approach

An infection with Bordetella pertussis bacteria, the causative agent of whooping cough, occurs in the respiratory tract. Intravacc used a new approach to follow the infection process caused by the pertussis bacterium in mice. Researchers measured the activity of all the genes in the lungs and spleen - an important organ of the immune system - at various time points during infection. Through this approach, it was possible to map changes in the expression of hundreds of genes in infected mice. This resulted in a very detailed and chronological map of protective immunity against pertussis bacteria.

Rene Raeven, investigator: “The response to an infection or vaccination is usually determined by measuring only a few parameters like, for example, the amount of antibodies in the blood. Through the new approach, we found that not only antibodies, but also local defense mechanisms - in the lung - play a role in fighting the infection. “

The research was conducted in cooperation with the Leiden Academic Center for Drug Research (LACDR) and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) in Bilthoven, both in the Netherlands.

Improved pertussis vaccines

The study reveals the molecular and cellular immunological processes in response to a pertussis infection. Bernard Metz, project leader: “Our study provides new insights for the development of improved pertussis vaccines. Currently, two types of vaccines against whooping cough are available. Whole cell vaccines, mainly marketed in low-income countries, offer long lasting protection but are rather reactogenic. Acellular vaccines, mainly marketed in high income countries, are less reactogenic but provide a more limited duration of protection.” Intravacc works on the development of a new pertussis vaccine based on outer membrane vesicles (OMVs). The use of OMVs should lead to a vaccine with broad protection and low reactogenicity.

Whooping cough

Pertussis is an endemic infectious disease that primarily affects infants and may cause severe symptoms. In some cases it is fatal. The disease is resurging and is among the global top 10 of vaccine preventable infections (source: WHO). The worldwide resurgence of pertussis may have been caused by changes in the bacteria and waning immunity of vaccines being used. Improved pertussis vaccines and vaccination strategies are therefore needed. 

About Intravacc

Intravacc is part of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. It performs a role in translating scientific ideas into valuable vaccines for both public and private sectors.
Intravacc is an attractive partner in R & D projects with third parties. It possesses expert knowledge and an accessible and complete infrastructure for translational vaccine research, development and production. Partners of Intravacc vary from biopharmaceutical and biotech companies to governments and other public and academic organizations. For more information www.intravacc.nl

Media Contact

Wilma Witkamp
Phone: +31 (0)30 274 2941
Mobile: +31 (0) 6 52 50 48 29
Email: info@intravacc.nl


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