Mar 23, 2019 | Updated: 12:48 PM EDT

Whooping cough vaccine is not working as well as it used to

Mar 13, 2019 05:58 PM EDT

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That vaccine that is used for whooping cough does not work as effectively as it used to, and new research shows that it is because the bacteria that is behind the disease has mutated. The researches at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC analyzed some lab samples from patients with whooping cough between 2000 and 2013 and found that Bordetella pertussis, which causes the disease, has gone through genetic changes throughout the years.

This means that the current vaccine is no longer a perfect match to the disease-causing bacteria. The researchers hope that the new data that was published in the journal called "Emerging Infectious Diseases" will help change the situation.

"The genomic data we provide will aid open research toward improved vaccine development and disease control strategies," the CDC authors wrote in their report.

"The pertussis vaccine is not optimal," said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

"We're making the best use of the vaccine, while we're frantically doing research to make a better one," said Schaffner. But a new vaccine for whooping cough is nowhere near ready, he said.

Anyone can get whooping cough, but babies are at risk the most. Babies and children currently receive a vaccine called DTaP. It helps protect them against three diseases: tetanus, pertussis, and diphtheria. Research has shown the vaccine is safe and it works well against tetanus and diphtheria, protecting almost everyone who gets it for a decade.

However, the vaccine DTaP is less effective in preventing whooping cough. Almost all children who received all the five recommended doses are protected for a year. After a year, their immunity wanes. Five years after the last dose, the CDC says the DTaP vaccine protects only 70% of children from pertussis. The CDC recommends booster shots for preteens, teenagers, and adults every 10 years.

Babies can't get vaccinated with DTaP until they are 2 months old. The CDC advises women to get a booster shot with every pregnancy so that their babies are born with protection against whooping cough until they are old enough to get the vaccine themselves.

"The most protective thing you can do is have a pregnant mom get the vaccine. It is the number one way to protect the baby," said pediatrician Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, Seattle Children's Hospital.

"Whooping cough is insidious, you don't know you have it right away. If you have whooping cough, you should not be around others, particularly pregnant women and infants," said Swanson.

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