Researchers Crack Whooping Cough Genome

Researchers at the University of Cambridge, in collaboration with colleagues in the United States and Germany, announced in August that they had succeeded in sequencing the genome for Bordetella pertussis, the bacteria responsible for most cases of whooping cough.

The researchers also sequenced the genome for a closely related bacteria, Bordetella papapertussis which also causes whooping cough, as well as Bordetella bronchiseptica which causes respiratory infections in animals.

Although children in the developed are routinely vaccinated for whooping cough, vaccination is not routinely administered in many developing countries. Moreover, the effects of the vaccination can wear off in adulthood. As a result there are an estimated 20 to 30 million cases of whooping cough every year that are responsible for 200,000 to 400,000 deaths annually.


Whooping cough genome revealed. Health Newswire Professional, August 13, 2003.

Gene map of cought killer. The BBC, August 11, 2003.

Scientists Crack Genetic Code of Whooping Cough Bacterium. Scout News, August 11, 2003.

State of The World’s Vaccines and Immunizations

A report by the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the World Bank concluded that 3 out of 4 children around the world now have access to essential vaccines. But, of course, that means that fully 25 percent of the world’s children are not routinely vaccinated against childhood diseases.

According to The State of the World’s Vaccines and Immunization, as many as 37 million children under the age of one are not immunized against the six major vaccine-preventable diseases of childhood: tuberculosis, tetanus, whooping cough, diphtheria, polio and measles.

Moreover, the inability of underdeveloped countries to pay for vaccines combined with ongoing property rights disputes over ownership of drugs and vaccines in such countries acts as disincentive for further research into vaccines for diseases that plague the developing world.

According to the report,

Today, vaccine manufacturers have little commercial incentive to develop vaccines against diseases such as HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, which kill millions of people in developing countries, but relatively few in the developed world. For example, of the approximately US$600 million a year invested in HIV vaccine research, the majority comes from the US National Institutes of Health (a public sector institution). To put that amount in perspective, in 1999, research spending on drugs to treat HIV/AIDS was about US$3 billion in Europe and the United States alone. Other diseases fare just as badly. In the 1996 report Investing in Health Research and Development, WHO highlighted some of the distortions in global health research funding. At the time of the study, acute respiratory infections, diarrheal disease and TB — which together account for almost 8 million deaths a year, mainly among the poor — attracted an estimated US$99-133 million. . . By contrast, more was spent on research into asthma — an estimated US $127-158 million — which accounts for 218,000 deaths a year worldwide.

Of course the report ignores the possibility that the relatively heavy funding in asthma is what is responsible for such a low worldwide death toll, but even so the amount estimated to be spent on research into diseases that kill 8 million people is staggeringly low.


Vaccine policy leaves millions at risk. The BBC, November 20, 2002.

State of the World’s Vaccines and Immunization Report (PDF). UNICEF, 2002.