Pathogenesis and Virulence Factors

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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Respiratory Case Study: Possible Pertussis Infection. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

Learn more about Respiratory Case Study: Possible Pertussis Infection (online CE course)
Pathogenesis and Virulence Factors

The CDC defines pertussis as, "A cough illness lasting at least 2 weeks with one of the following: paroxysms of coughing, inspiratory "whoop," or post-tussive vomiting, without other apparent cause (as reported by a health professional)."*
Bordetella pertussis is the primary pathogen of whooping cough. B. pertussis has several virulence factors that allow it to overcome the immune defenses of healthy individuals. The bacteria attach to the cilia of respiratory epithelial cells, paralyze the cilia with toxins, and cause inflammation of the respiratory tract, which ultimately interferes with the clearing of pulmonary secretions. Toxins, such as adenylate cyclase toxin (ACT), pertussis toxin (PT), tracheal cytotoxin (TCT), and dermonecrotic toxin (DNT), as well as filamentous hemagglutinin adhesin (FHA), pertactin (PRN), lipopolysaccharide (LPS), and fimbriae (attachment pili) are all examples of virulence factors produced by the organism.

*References: Pertussis (Whooping cough)(Bordetella pertussis). National notifiable diseases surveillance system. CDC website. Available at: Accessed May 1, 2020.