A team of researchers from UT Austin and Synthetic Biologics Inc. have developed two antibodies to potentially treat or prevent pertussis, the highly contagious respiratory tract infection that affects millions of infants around the world and results in an estimated 200,000 child deaths every year.
Commonly known as whooping cough, pertussis causes painful fits of coughing and life-threatening symptoms in infants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 16 million pertussis cases occur annually, and the disease is a major cause of infant death in developing nations.
In the U.S., childhood vaccinations largely prevent the disease, but there has been an increase in incidence during the past 20 years, including several outbreaks in recent years. Antibiotics are frequently ineffective in severe cases, and there is no treatment for infants or preventive for infants too young to be vaccinated.
When an infant is infected, a secretion called pertussis toxin damages the immune system and causes the infant’s white blood cell count to rise to dangerous levels and block blood flow through the lungs.
The two new antibodies neutralize pertussis toxin and could be used individually or together.