Research Article: Incidence and Reproduction Numbers of Pertussis: Estimates from Serological and Social Contact Data in Five European Countries

Date Published: June 22, 2010

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Mirjam Kretzschmar, Peter F. M. Teunis, Richard G. Pebody, Megan Murray

Abstract: Analyses of serological and social contact data from several European countries by Miriam Kretzschmar and colleagues show that vaccination against pertussis has shifted the burden of infection from children to adolescents and adults.

Partial Text: There has been a long-standing discussion in the public health community about how mass vaccination impacts the circulation of B. pertussis in a population and how it reduces transmission [1],[2]. Over the last decade pertussis has reemerged in many countries where large-scale vaccination programmes have been in place since the middle of the last century. After a period during which infections with the bacterial pathogen B. pertussis seemed to be under control, pertussis incidence is now reportedly rising in many Western countries, even those with stable and high vaccination coverage. Several reasons have been put forward to explain these trends: a surveillance artifact due to the introduction of new diagnostic methods or a true epidemiological observation representing, for example, waning vaccine-induced protection. With respect to the latter explanation it is now known that subclinical infections in adolescent and adult populations may play a major role in the persistent circulation of B. pertussis in highly vaccinated populations [3]. Immunity after natural infection and vaccine-induced immunity both wane after some years and reinfection of previously infected or of vaccinated individuals have both been observed [4]. Prior immunization, as well as older age, usually results in a milder clinical presentation of the infection, such that pertussis infections in adults are often not recognized or diagnosed. Nevertheless, asymptomatically infected persons can be a source of new infection and can pose a threat to children who are too young to be vaccinated, and are therefore susceptible to potentially severe pertussis infection [5].

We estimated the incidence of infection with B. pertussis during the 1990s from serological data for five European countries using two novel statistical modelling methods. One method uses information about the decay rate of antibodies against PT to estimate infection rates from IgG PT levels in cross-sectional sera. The other method uses information about age-dependent contact patterns and fractions of seropositive persons by age to derive an estimate for the force of infection. The two methods both lead to high incidence levels overall and for all countries, but there is also a clear difference between the estimates. We found the incidence levels were between 1% and 6% for all five countries for the first method and between 1% and 4% for the second method. Furthermore, although there was variation in incidence by country, the basic reproduction numbers were remarkably similar across countries, and for contact matrices based on all contacts versus only physical contacts. The incidences estimated here differ strongly from incidences found in national surveillance systems [11], clearly illustrating large underreporting rates and differences between countries in reporting rates.



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