is a human-specific pathogen and the causative agent of whooping cough. The ongoing resurgence in pertussis incidence in high income countries is likely due to faster waning of immunity and increased asymptomatic colonization in individuals vaccinated with acellular pertussis (aP) vaccine relative whole-cell pertussis (wP)-vaccinated individuals. This has renewed interest in developing more effective vaccines and treatments and, in support of these efforts, defining pertussis vaccine correlates of protection and the role of vaccine antigens and toxins in disease. Pertussis and its toxins have been investigated by scientists for over a century, yet we still do not have a clear understanding of how pertussis toxin (PT) contributes to disease symptomology or how anti-PT immune responses confer protection. This review covers PT’s role in disease and evidence for its protective role in vaccines. Clinical data suggest that PT is a defining and essential toxin for B. pertussis
pathogenesis and, when formulated into a vaccine, can prevent disease. Additional studies are required to further elucidate the role of PT in disease and vaccine-mediated protection, to inform the development of more effective treatments and vaccines.
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