Whooping cough vaccine aims to boost babies' protection

Whooping cough vaccine aims to boost babies' protection

Baby lying in cot

The development of a world-first nasal spray vaccine could be a turning point in protection against whooping cough, helping stop the spread of the respiratory infection to vulnerable babies.

The global SUPER Study will investigate if a nasal spray vaccine called BPZE1 can prevent the bacteria that causes whooping cough, Bordetella pertussis, from causing an infection in the first instance and thereby reducing transmission in the community.

Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick (SCH) and The Children’s Hospital at Westmead (CHW) are two sites involved in the 12-month trial, which is being led by Telethon Kids Institute.

Dr Rama Kandasamy, Staff Specialist at Sydney Children’s Hospital Network (SCHN), is the site lead at CHW. He said it is hoped the effect of the vaccine will reduce the spread of whooping cough to community members most at risk.

“Whooping cough can be life-threatening for babies under six months of age as they are yet to be fully immunised. Research has shown older children, teenagers and adults, play a major role in transmitting the bacteria throughout the community, putting those most vulnerable – like young babies - at risk,” Dr Kandasamy said.

“Vaccination is the best way to reduce the risk of whooping cough, but unfortunately the currently available vaccines have limited ability to stop transmission.

"The Super Study highlights the importance of continued vaccine development in providing superior protection to populations against illnesses such as whooping cough.”

Whooping cough is spread via droplets of fluid in the air from coughing and sneezing, or spending a large amount of time in the same close breathing space as an infected person (often by a parent, or an older child or adult who does not know they are infected).

Current vaccines for whooping cough work by producing antibodies in the blood. While this has proven to be effective in suppressing the severity of the infection, the vaccines do not have the ability to stop the infection from occurring nor prevent transmission.

It is hoped the nasal spray vaccine will provide superior protection by not only producing antibodies in the blood, but in the nose and throat also.

In previous studies, the BPZE1 vaccine has been well-tolerated by adults and induced the antibodies against the bacteria as expected. This is the first study of BPZE1 vaccine in school-aged children.

"This important study is a great example of collaboration within SCHN and with leading researchers across Australia and overseas,” Dr Brendan McMullan, Infectious Diseases Specialist at SCHN and site lead at SCH, said.

“We have already begun recruitment and are excited to see the outcomes of this research, as improved prevention of whooping cough could lead to many lives saved.”

Recruitment is underway for the trial, with researchers looking for 600 participates aged between 11 and 17 years old to take part across Australia and the United Kingdom. Registrations of interest are also being taken for children aged six upwards.

For more information about the SUPER Study or to sign up, visit the Super Study website or email SCHN-NCIRS-Research@health.nsw.gov.au.