Researchers at WF Innovation Quarter look to improve whooping cough vaccine

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Researchers inside the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter have a patent pending on a protein that they think will improve the current Whooping Cough or Bordetella pertussis vaccine.

Dr. Rajendar Deora, an associate professor of immunology and microbiology at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, is working with a protein that he says in early tests provides a more effective immune response to the bacteria.

“We have shown that humans infected with pertussis actually make antibodies against this protein,” said Deora.

Deora said he’s had interest in the disease since he was a child in India. He remembers it being called “black cough.”

Deora said the vaccine that came into use in the 1940’s was phased out in 1996 after side effects and safety concerns surfaced about the vaccine.

Still used today, the DTaP vaccine was then introduced. It is an acellular vaccine that has only purified pieces of the bacteria.  Over time that vaccine has proven less effective and there has been a steep increase in the number of cases of whooping cough.

Dr. Deora said while his team of researchers at the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter is encouraged, the new vaccine has at least 5 more years of testing to complete.

“It is very promising to us and we are very excited. We hope to test this protein further and be able to  convince the FDA and other federal regulatory agencies it can be included in regular vaccines,” Deora said.

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