Local Biologists Research Improved Whooping Cough Vaccine

11:07 PM, Aug 20, 2012   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +

Forsyth County, NC--  It's an invisible killer but it's anything but silent. Pertussis, or whooping cough took the life of a two-month old baby in Forsyth County.

But there is hope in the fight against whooping cough. News 2's Liz Crawford talked to researchers right here in the Triad who are working on a new and improved vaccine.

The current vaccine wears off as early as two to three years, which is why we need a booster years later. We didn't always know this, which is why we're seeing this resurgence of the disease. Only about ten years ago did doctors know the vaccine wears off.

A research team with Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center is working on a vaccine that would be good for a lifetime.

Crystal Redfern a Micro Biology Ph.D. Candidate with Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center said "One of the reasons why it lasts so long in the upper respiratory system is that it's able to produce biofilms, so we work on how to elucidate how the bacteria forms biofilms."

Those biofilms are films or slime bacteria can survive in and escape from. They're also immune from antibiotics. That's why Redfern and a team of scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center are on a mission to identify the bacteria that's creating the biofilms.

"Find what the bacteria is using to produce these biofilms and target that, put that into a vaccine so that the immune system targets that," added Redfern.

Without a way to kill the biofilms, a lot of teenagers and adults have to remember to get a whooping cough booster vaccine. That's perhaps why our youngest babies are most susceptible. The adults around them are harboring the disease without knowing it. So when these biofilms release the disease in your system, it may seem like a cold to an adult. However, the entire time, the adult could be passing along whooping cough to a vulnerable child.

As far as the research goes, Redfern said it should wrap up in another two years. In a perfect world, we would see the new treatment in about three years but realistically Redfern said it will likely be more like five years.

WFMY News 2

Most Watched Videos