Contents

14 Pertussis (whooping cough)

14.1 Bacteriology

Pertussis (whooping cough) is a bacterial respiratory infection caused by Bordetella pertussis, a gram-negative bacillus. The bacillus is fastidious (it requires special media to culture), and will often have cleared or decreased in numbers by the time the typical cough develops, making laboratory confirmation by culture difficult. The development of sensitive and specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and serological assays has improved our ability to demonstrate B. pertussis infection (see section 14.8).