Schematic of bacteria that causes whooping cough

Whooping Cough Hides in Your Nose

Date: May 2, 2024

Author: Anne Kuijper, MD Regenerative Medicine & Technology

Read time: 4 minutes

Scientists from the Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, discuss in a recent publication a new possible vaccination for the whooping cough that protects the airways and the inside of the nose. This vaccination is given via inhalation through the nose. It protects not only against whooping cough infection, but also against the asymptomatic transmission thereof. This means that whooping cough wouldn’t be able to secretly spread from one person to another any longer. 

Banner summarizing whooping cough

Whooping cough vaccine

With vaccinations, doctors want to make sure your body is prepared to deal with an infection, Dr. White tells us. Your immune system needs to be taught what the infection is, so it can adjust and make weaponry to get rid of it. Examples thereof are, among others, molecules like serum immunoglobulins (Ig’s) and cells such as memory cells.

The current whooping cough vaccine is injected into your bloodstream (as most vaccinations are) and causes your body to make a type of immunoglobulin called IgG. IgG protects you against the worst of symptoms of whooping cough.

The effectiveness of the whooping cough vaccine wanes over time. Booster shots can be taken to improve immunity. Yet, when you have been vaccinated once in your life, your symptoms will be less severe than if you have never gotten vaccinated.

This is where the advantage of a nasal vaccination comes in. Instead of injecting the vaccine into the bloodstream, the vaccine can be breathed in through the nose. Experimental data suggests that the body reacts differently to the inhaled vaccine. More molecules and cells such as different types of immunoglobulins (IgA) and memory CD4 T-cells which produce a molecule called interleukin-17 are made. The extra production of protective immune factors should prevent whooping cough from infecting the inside of the nose.

How does whooping cough spread

At the moment, whooping cough can spread secretly from person to person via the air, even when you are vaccinated. This is one of Mr. Blacks favorite tricks.  In the first two weeks of the infection, you do not feel any symptoms yet. But you can carry over whooping cough, nevertheless.

Whooping cough makes itself at home in the upper airways. This location is not accidental. The upper airways are ideal for the disease to get from the body, into the air. For example, when you sneeze or cough, small droplets are showered into the air which could make someone else sick.  

Image of the lungs and the upper airways in white by brgfx on Freepik

What causes whooping cough

Whooping cough is caused by a bacterium called Bordetella Pertussis, also known as B. pertussis. It infects the upper airways of humans. When inside the body, B. pertussis clings to cilia, which are small hairs that make a sweeping motion that moves mucus up your airways back to your throat and mouth region. These cilia are important for cleaning your airways of gunk, debris, and potentially dangerous invaders of the body. When the mucus with potential invaders has been swept back to your throat and mouth area by the cilia, you swallow everything. Then it will go to the stomach where everything is killed in the acid that is waiting there.

When B. pertussis attaches itself to the cilia, they produce toxins that suppress the sweeping movement of the cilia. This leads to swelling and inflammation in the upper airways and together with the accumulation of thick mucus, causes the symptoms of whooping cough.

Can whooping cough kill you?

Generally, the infection is not too dangerous for the average healthy person. In contrast, babies younger than 1 year old, have a high risk for complications and even death. Mr. White tells us that sometimes babies cannot cough and instead struggle to breath or even stop breathing for a moment. People with a weak immune system can also get seriously sick from a whooping cough infection.

Broadly the average person can get symptoms such as a clogged, runny nose, watery, red eyes, fever, and the typical cough. However, this is only at the start of the infection, after a week or two, the cough worsens. This is because the mucus in the upper airways begins to accumulate. You can become very tired, get a red/blue face due to the intensity of coughing and lack of oxygen, or vomit after an intense coughing fit.

Whooping cough for pregnant women and infants

The protective molecule IgG can pass over from the mother’s bloodstream to her child’s when pregnant, which is why it is . The mother’s immune system has already made the protective immunoglobulins and passes them over. Very young babies cannot get vaccinated, as their immune system is not able to prepare itself for infections yet.

What does whooping cough sound like?

It often sounds like a  deep breath that sounds like ‘whoop’, explains Mr. White. The inhaling after the coughing, the whooping sound, can be more or less defined per person.  So, confusingly, the cough doesn’t sound ‘whooping’ at all, the breathing in after does. So, if you are wondering if your cough may be something more, listen closely to yourself and remember to consult a doctor. In the video below, Doctor Donovan shows some examples of what whooping cough can sound like, in both adults and children. Be aware the sounds might be disturbing to you, warns Mr. White.

Gameplay guide to B. Pertussis

B. pertussis is one of the infectious diseases that you can play in ImmunoWars. By using 3 ATP, you will force your opponent to role the die to either get -1 ATP for 5 turns or get an additional -3 HP on top as well.

It is a bacterium with a contagiousness and severity of two. Therefore, it is of mediocre difficulty to cure. To destroy B. pertussis, you can use the card called Abcetion, Antibiotics (ampicillin, ciprofloxacin, and penicillin), Bacteriophage, B-cell, CRISPR-Cas9, Macrophage, Monocyte or Natural Killer Cell. Each of these cards has different ATP costs, so make sure to stock up on ATP.

If you are desperate, close to death or very lucky, you can use the Bleach, Epinephrine, or Spontaneous Remission card, respectively.


Terug naar blog

Reactie plaatsen

Let op: opmerkingen moeten worden goedgekeurd voordat ze worden gepubliceerd.

Wanna play a game about this subject?

Yes, you read it correctly. We created a game about infectious diseases, treatments, and technologies. This board game is made by scientists for scientists and non-scientists.