Pertussis incidence among older adults may be underestimated
DENVER — Researchers observed a substantial disease burden due to Bordetella pertussis in adults aged 50 years and older, suggesting that the disease’s prevalence is under diagnosed and underreported.
"Pertussis can disrupt daily activities and be considered the worst cough of someone’s life, lasting for months at a time and leading to cracked ribs, among other complications," Cristina Masseria, PhD, manager of health outcomes at GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines, told Infectious Disease News. "Moreover, adults unknowingly can spread pertussis to infants, who are then at risk for a severe, sometimes life-threatening illness."
Masseria and colleague estimated the incidence of cough illness attributable to B. pertussis in adults aged 50 years and older using data from private practice and commercial laboratory partner databases through IMS Health. They presented their findings here during the 2013 Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.
From April 2006 to December 2010, there were 20.7 million cases of cough illness among patients aged 50 to 64 years, and 27.5 million cases among those aged 65 years and older. The researchers attributed 2.5% and 1.7% of cough cases, respectively, to pertussis. The estimated incidences of cough illnesses linked to pertussis for the two age groups were 168-292 and 184-464 per 100,000, respectively, and the incidence increased among both age groups over the study period.
According to Masseria and colleagues, the estimated incidences of pertussis were 42 to 105 times higher than medically attended cases in the IMS database, depending on the year.
"The findings of the [GlazoSmithKline] study argue for an emphasis on developing clinical approaches and public health programs to curb the spread of pertussis among older adults," Masseria said. "More clinical awareness of pertussis among adults is needed. Although pertussis is not usually life-threatening for adults, it can be debilitating."
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Disclosure: Masseria is an employee of GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines.