Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

Electron microscope image of the bacteria Bordetella pertussis.

Electron microscope image of the bacteria Bordetella pertussis.

Credit: Sanofi Pasteur

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing that often makes it hard to breathe. After fits of many coughs, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths, which result in a “whooping” sound.

Why Is the Study of Pertussis (Whooping Cough) a Priority for NIAID?

Pertussis most commonly affects infants and young children and can be fatal, especially in babies less than 1 year of age. With the resurgence in pertussis in recent years—in 2012, U.S. rates reached a 50-year high of 48,000 reported cases—there remains a strong need for research to support the development of new and effective prevention measures.

How Is NIAID Addressing This Critical Topic?

Over the years, and continuing into today, NIAID has played a key role in developing and implementing the pertussis research agenda, particularly in understanding the infection process and evaluating vaccines and vaccine regimens. 

Related Public Health and Government Information

To learn about risk factors for pertussis or whooping cough and current prevention and treatment strategies visit the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) pertussis (whooping cough) site.

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