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Neither immunization nor recovery from natural infection provides life-long protection against Bordetella pertussis. Replacement of a whole-cell pertussis (wP) vaccine with an acellular pertussis (aP) vaccine, mutations in B. pertussis strains, and better diagnostic techniques, contribute to resurgence of number of cases especially in young infants. Development of new immunization strategies relies on a comprehensive understanding of immune system responses to infection and immunization and how triggering these immune components would ensure protective immunity. In this review, we assess how B cells, and their secretory products, antibodies, respond to B. pertussis infection, current and novel vaccines and highlight similarities and differences in these responses. We first focus on antibody-mediated immunity. We discuss antibody (sub)classes, elaborate on antibody avidity, ability to neutralize pertussis toxin, and summarize different effector functions, i.e. ability to activate complement, promote phagocytosis and activate NK cells. We then discuss challenges and opportunities in studying B-cell immunity. We highlight shared and unique aspects of B-cell and plasma cell responses to infection and immunization, and discuss how responses to novel immunization strategies better resemble those triggered by a natural infection (i.e., by triggering responses in mucosa and production of IgA). With this comprehensive review, we aim to shed some new light on the role of B cells and antibodies in the pertussis immunity to guide new vaccine development.

Original publication




Journal article


J Mol Biol

Publication Date



B-cell immunity, Humoral immunity, Infection, Pertussis, Vaccination