The introduction of a whole-cell vaccine against Bordetella pertussis, the causative agent of whooping cough, dramatically reduced disease incidence. Unfortunately, the whole-cell formulation also induces severe reactions in some infants. Because of this, acellular vaccines have been developed, but they are used exclusively in high-income countries. However, the acellular vaccines do not provide long-term protection, and despite the use of routine boosters, the disease is on the rise. In this issue of the JCI, da Silva Antunes and colleagues demonstrate that the whole-cell vaccines promote long-term polarization toward Th1 and Th17 responses, while the acellular vaccines induce Th2 polarization. Moreover, this polarization is long term, as the response to acellular boosters is dependent on the initial vaccine given in infancy. The authors speculate that Tregs may be induced by initial acellular vaccine administration. The results of this study have important implications for the development of pertussis vaccination strategies that would induce Th1 and Th17 polarization.
Stanley A. Plotkin