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Understand Whooping cough


Whooping cough, also called pertussis, is a bacterial infection of the lungs and airways. It is caused by a bacterium called Bordetella pertussis (B. pertussis). Whooping cough can cause repeated coughing bouts that can last for three months or more. Young babies under six months of age are typically affected and are in the age group that is most vulnerable to serious complications. In older children and adults it tends to be less serious, although it can still be unpleasant and frustrating. In some adults who are infected there may be no symptoms at all, so that the infection passes unnoticed.


B. pertussis is spread in the droplets produced when someone with the infection coughs or sneezes. Therefore you can catch whooping cough if you come into close contact with someone with the infection. The first symptoms are similar to those of a cold, such as a runny nose, red and watery eyes, a sore throat, and a slightly raised temperature. Intense coughing bouts typically start about a week later. Antibiotics will help stop the infection spreading to others, and usually (but do not always) reduce the symptoms.


If antibiotics are given during the early phase of the infection, it is believed that the cough can be prevented, but there are exceptions to this rule and it is possible that people who are given antibiotics even during the early phase of illness may go on to develop the cough.  Although a A human controlled infection study to establish a safe, reproducible and practical human Bordetella pertussis colonisation model for the identification of correlates of protection against colonisation. 

Pertussis vaccine is offered to all babies in the UK, the vaccine does not offer lifelong protection. In fact, protection by the vaccine seems to be less nowadays in comparison to 15 years ago.


What is the purpose of this study?


This study is part of a project that aims to develop a better vaccine against whooping cough. To do this we need to know more about the immune response generated against carriage of B. pertussis and what kind of immune response protects against whooping cough. This study is designed to look at those particular questions by inoculating healthy volunteers with nose drops containing B. pertussis, trying to cause nasal colonisation without causing disease and then monitoring their immune response before giving them antibiotics to clear B. pertussis


In Phase A of our study we investigated the effect of B. pertussis and optimised the dose of bacteria so volunteers get colonised without getting ill. In phase B, this phase, we will give the optimised dose in the form of nose drops to approximately 60 healthy volunteers and include persons who have close contact with them to see if they become a carrier as well.


Volunteers in Phase B who have been inoculated with B. pertussis will be required to attend several visits to the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Southampton Clinical Research Facility (CRF). 14 weeks after the initial inoculation you will be exposed to the same dose of B. pertussis and receive antibiotics again 14 days later (optional). We would like to re-challenge as many volunteers as possible at week 14 to show if volunteers will have consistent protection against colonisation or that initial inoculation has caused protection against colonisation.

Take part

We are currently looking for healthy participants aged between 18 – 55 years to take part in our new Whooping cough study.

The study participation is up to 10 weeks and participants will be compensated up to £1,000 for their time and travel.


Contact for further details or simply fill in the form below and we will be in touch.

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