Mucosal immunity in Gambian infants following primary immunisation with acellular compared to whole-cell pertussis vaccine


Whooping cough, known as pertussis, is a serious infection, especially in babies. Two types of pertussis vaccine exist: whole-cell (wP) and acellular (aP). aP vaccines may not be as effective in preventing whooping cough as wP vaccines, but the cause remains unknown. It may be due to differences in how these vaccines act at the surface (‘mucosa’) lining the inside of the nose and upper airway, where pertussis bacteria initially infect. Data from animal models show that immunisation with wP vaccines (but not aP) prevents pertussis bacteria infecting the nose, clearing them before any further symptoms develop and transmission to other individuals can occur. However, we do not know enough about the type of immune defence induced at the mucosa by the two different vaccines, and there is no data in children. Our project is set within a large study in The Gambia that is vaccinating babies with aP or wP vaccines. We will investigate components of the infant’s immune system activated by these vaccines at the mucosa, including cytokines and specific antibodies to pertussis bacteria. To achieve this, we will collect and analyse fluid from each infant’s nose. Blood samples are already being collected and we will add these valuable mucosal results to improve our insight into how these vaccines differ in their action. Our findings will help to design better pertussis vaccines in the future. This project links our opportunities and expertise in The Gambia to the UK and a wider European Consortium of academic and industry partners.

Beate Kampmann

Professor Beate Kampmann 
Theme Leader Vaccines & Immunity Theme and Professor of Paediatric Infectious diseases,and immunology
Vaccine & Immunity Theme, MRC The Gambia at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (The Gambia)

Dr. Anja Saso, Vaccine and Immunity Theme, MRC Unit The Gambia at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (The Gambia)

Dr Thushan de Silva, The Florey Institute, Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease, University of Sheffield Medical School (UK)