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Understanding the re-emergence of Whooping Cough: from genomes to vaccines

Date: 17 July 2013 | Time: 12.00pm-1.00pm | Venue: GLT3, WMS


Dr Andrew Preston, Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath


Once a major disease of childhood, whooping cough, caused by Bordetella pertussis, has been controlled by vaccination with seemingly great success. However, over recent years the incidence of disease has been rising despite vaccination coverage remaining very high. Last year in the UK a major Pertussis epidemic saw 10 000 cases and a number of fatalities, mirroring major outbreaks in other western countries.

It is feared that vaccine-induced immunity is exerting selection pressures that is steering B. pertussis evolution towards ‘vaccine escape’. To test this, we have undertaken a detailed genomic analysis of UK Pertussis isolates, comparing strains from different vaccine eras, with a focus on 2012 epidemic isolates. We are correlating the different genotypes observed with phenotypic analyses to establish the efficacy of whooping cough vaccines against current strains.


Dr Preston is a molecular microbiologist whose research is focused on bacterial pathogens that infect mucosal surfaces of mammalian hosts. Being a sequence addict, he is a huge fan of using genome sequencing, and associated post-genomic technologies, to study infection biology. In particular, Dr Preston is leading several genome projects exploring the evolution, infection and immunity, and physiology of the bordetellae. This genus includes species that infect a wide range of mammalian hosts, including the causative agents of Whooping Cough


Dr Andrew Preston