The complete genome of the bacteria that causes whooping cough, a disease that kills 200,000-400,000 people worldwide each year, has been published in the journal Nature Genetics.
The genome map for Bordetella pertussis, which includes around 3,800 gene sequences, is likely to speed up the search for better vaccines and treatments. The sequencing effort has also resulted in genome maps for two related organisms, B. parapertussis (which can also cause whooping cough) and B. bronchiseptica (which causes respiratory infections in animals).
For several decades inactivated whole cell vaccines have been part of national childhood vaccination programmes, dramatically reducing the considerable public health impact of whooping cough. However, the World Health Organisation estimates that 20 per cent of children who should be vaccinated against the disease miss out, especially in the developing world.
Moreover, vaccination with either whole cell vaccines or the newer acellular products does not confer long-term immunity, and can lose efficacy in adolescence and adulthood.
The publication of the complete sequence promises to accelerate research into the organism, said the researchers, from the UK, Germany and then USA.