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November 14, 1990

Pertussis Toxins, Other Antigens Become Likely Targets for Genetic Engineering

JAMA. 1990;264(18):2369-2370. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03450180023004

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GENETICALLY engineered pertussis vaccines have yet to be fully tested clinically. But early human, animal, and in vitro studies indicate effectiveness in reducing toxic effects due to Bordetella pertussis.

"These are the vaccines of the future, no question," says Rino Rappuoli, PhD, Sclavo Research Center, Siena, Italy, who spoke at the Sixth International Symposium on Pertussis that was held at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

The licensed pertussis vaccines consist of inactivated whole cells of the organism. Although highly effective, they have been associated with neurologic complications. While the evidence continues to mount that these complications are extremely rare, if they occur at all, it has affected the public's acceptance of pertussis immunization.

This led to the development, originally in Japan, of acellular vaccines containing only purified and chemically inactivated portions of the bacterium. These have been tested in the field, most recently in Sweden (JAMA. 1988;259:2057-2059). Unfortunately,