What causes pertussis (whooping cough)?

Updated: May 02, 2019
  • Author: Joseph J Bocka, MD; Chief Editor: Russell W Steele, MD  more...
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Answer

Humans are the sole reservoir for B pertussis and B parapertussis. B pertussis, a gram-negative pleomorphic bacillus, is the main causative organism for pertussis. (B parapertussis is less common than B pertussis and produces a clinical illness that is similar to, but milder than, that produced by B pertussis.) B pertussis spreads via aerosolized droplets produced by the cough of infected individuals, attaching to and damaging ciliated respiratory epithelium. B pertussis also multiplies on the respiratory epithelium, starting in the nasopharynx and ending primarily in the bronchi and bronchioles. [5]


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