Whooping cough (also known as pertussis) is a serious respiratory infection that mostly affects infants. Due to limited documentation, a multi-centre study will, for the first time, assess the burden of the disease in infants less than one-year-old. KEM hospital in Pune, along with centres in Kolkata, Chennai and Ludhiana, is part of the project.
Dr Ashish Bavdekar, principal investigator of the project and consultant paediatrician at KEM hospital, told The Indian Express that DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis) vaccines are routinely recommended for mothers to protect the babies against disease caused by bacteria (diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough). But there is a need to understand the burden of the disease and how many babies with whooping cough are hospitalised during the first year of their life.
Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing, which often makes it hard to breathe. After cough fits, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths that result in a whooping sound. According to Dr Sanjay Lalwani, president of Pune unit of Indian Academy of Paediatrics, there is a high burden of pertussis in the country. “However, as the baby does not have antibodies against the disease during the first six weeks after their birth, the mother is vaccinated during the pregnancy against whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria,” said Lalwani.
According to Dr Bavdekar, there are no blood tests that can tell if there are enough antibodies in the body to protect the baby against whooping cough. Hence, the ambitious study where 1,000 children under one year will be enrolled across four centres. These include Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Research Institute, Chennai, Institute of Child Health, Kolkata, Christian Medical College at Ludhiana and KEM hospital in Pune. Once enrolled, the babies will be monitored and the throat swabs for culture will be tested at the centres’ laboratories. The KEM hospital will also conduct molecular diagnosis, Bavdekar said, adding that the study will commence soon.