Whooping cough is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis
. There are currently two types of vaccines that can prevent the disease; whole cell vaccines (WCV) and acellular vaccines (ACV). The main virulence factor produced by the organism is pertussis toxin (PTx). This toxin is responsible for many physiological effects on the host, but it is also immunogenic and in its detoxified form is the main component of all ACVs. In producing toxoid for vaccines, it is vital to achieve a balance between sufficiently detoxifying PTx to render it safe while maintaining enough molecular structure that it retains its protective immunogenicity. To ensure that the first part of this balancing act has been successfully achieved, assays are required to accurately measure residual PTx activity in ACV products accurately. Quality control assays are also required to ensure that the detoxification procedures are robust and stable. This manuscript reviews the methods that have been used to achieve this aim, or may have the potential to replace them, and highlights their continuing requirement as vaccines that induce a longer lasting immunity are developed to prevent the re-occurrence of outbreaks that have been observed recently.
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