Bordetella pertussis is a kind of bacteria. It is a gram-negative organism and has a morphology named coccobacillus. It is an aerobic organism, meaning that it has to be in an oxygenated atmosphere in order to survive. This bacteria is non-motile, meaning that it lacks fimbrae or a flagella and cannot move throughout its atmosphere. Although not well known today, in the last century, it was the source of a particularly virulent and dangerous disease. Bordetella pertussis is most commonly known as the cause of pertussis which is commonly called whooping cough. The bacteria is spread by airborne droplets from infected people. Humans are the only known carriers of Bordatella pertussis. It is not known to be a zoonosis and cannot survive on inanimate objects. The disease has to live in a warmer temperature, like that of the human body.
Pertussis is an infection of the respiratory system. It was called the whooping cough since victims of the disease make a whooping sound when breathing. Although the disease used to kill thousands of people a year, a vaccine was developed in the twentieth century and does not exist in the United States today. It still infects people in other country and still kills thousands of people world-wide.
The bacteria begins in the lungs. After a victim has breathed in the bacteria, it begins to colonize the lung epithelial cells. The bacteria produces a toxin which acts as a paralyzer, stopping the cilia from beating and clearing the debris and mucus from the lungs. To respond to this, the body stimulates coughing, which helps to clear some of the debris as well as the bacteria, spreading it to others.
Infection of Bordetella pertussis is most dangerous to children and infants. Since their immune systems are not fully developed, they are at the most risk for not being able to combat the disease. In adults, the infection turns into a chronic disorder, lasting for months and sometimes even years. Unless the immune system is compromised or the patient has other problems, the immune system has a good chance of killing the bacteria, although the recovery time is very slow. There are some antibiotics available that will help to kill the bacteria. The problem with the pertussis disease is that it can often be diagnosed as the flu or a common cold. The disease is not debilitating and an infected individual may not see a doctor for months after contracting the disease.