Research Article

Is Bordetella pertussis clonal?

BMJ 1992; 304 doi: (Published 28 March 1992) Cite this as: BMJ 1992;304:813
  1. M. N. Khattak,
  2. R. C. Matthews,
  3. J. P. Burnie
  1. Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Manchester Medical School.


    OBJECTIVE--To establish whether Bordetella pertussis is essentially clonal. DESIGN--Analysis of restriction fragments of XbaI digests of DNA from clinical and control isolates of B pertussis by pulse field gel electrophoresis. MATERIALS--105 isolates of B pertussis: 67 clinical isolates from throughout the United Kingdom and 23 from Germany (collected during the previous 18 months); vaccine strains 2991 and 3700; and 13 control isolates from Manchester University's culture collection. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Frequency of DNA types according to country of origin and classical serotyping. RESULTS--17 DNA types were identified on the basis of the variation in 11 fragments, banding at 200-412 kilobases; 15 types were found in the clinical and control isolates from the United Kingdom and seven in those from Germany. There was no correlation with serotype. DNA type 1 was the commonest overall (22/105 strains, 22%), predominating in serotypes 1,2 and 1,2,3 and including the vaccine strains but not the isolates from Germany. CONCLUSIONS--Current infections due to B pertussis are not caused by a clonal pathogen as multiple strains are circulating in a given population at one time. There is also considerable epidemiological variation in the pathogen population between countries. These findings may have implications for the design of acellular vaccines.