Australia sees sharp rise in whooping cough cases

According to the Vaccine News Daily, Australian sees sharp rise in whooping cough cases. In 2011, Australia has seen about 38,000 cases of  whooping cough, despite a relatively high level of vaccination. As a comparison, California, which has about 15 million more people than Australia (37 million and 22 million people, respectively) had only 3,000 cases of whooping cough in 2011.  Some of the difference may be related to improved diagnostic procedures, but they have also been implemented in California.

Apparently, there is a new genotype of the bacteria, Bordetella pertussis, which  constitutes over 80% of the pertussis infections in Australia. Apparently, this new genotype is capable of evading the immune response created by the vaccine, in effect, evolving to avoid being destroyed by the human host.

To preclude a potential critique from the anti-vaccination gang, whooping cough is a serious disease, so either genotype would have the same risk for kids and adults. Of course, Australia has its anti-vaccine groups, specifically, the Australian Vaccine Network run by the Australian version of Jenny McCarthy–Meryl Dorey. Well Meryl hasn’t posed naked in Playboy, but other than that, not much difference.

Dorey, in response to the report, had this to say:

The vaccine no longer contains the same strain of the bacteria as that which is circulating in the community. In addition, the newer strain of the bacteria seems to be more virulent which is why we’re seeing infants dying of whooping cough, which we haven’t seen for a very long time.

Yes, the new genotype  may be capable of evading the current vaccine, but there is just no evidence that the new genotype is more virulent. Dorey, lacking any historical perspective, or apparently, knowledge of medicine, does not understand that nearly 300,000 people die from whooping cough every year.  And that in the US, an infant under 2 months old who contracts whooping cough has a 1 in 100 chance of dying. A child of 2-12 months, has a 1 in 200 chance of dying.  

So does Meryl Dorey think that children would be better off without the vaccine?  I actually know the answer to that question, she thinks all vaccines should be eliminated. She would rather that our children die of the “nicer” genotype than the mutated one? Oh wait, in her Appeal to Naturalism, obviously the “natural” genotype is better than the one evolved to avoid the immunity.  There is nothing here that would indicate that Australians should stop vaccinating their children against pertussis.  None.  

OK, my Australian friends, how do you put up with Meryl Dorey?  Just don’t send her to the United States; you already gifted us Ken Ham and his Creation Museum.  


The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!

9 Replies to “Australia sees sharp rise in whooping cough cases”

  1. Hey Skpeticalraptor, just thought I'd raise a minor point here. You say "there is just no evidence that the new genotype is more virulent" but this isn't an assertion Dorey has pulled from thin air, it can be traced back to this study ( from 2009 which observed increased pertussis toxin (Ptx) production in ptxp3-carrying strains and also observed an increase in hospitalisations and deaths per hospitalisation for pertussis infection over the time period ptxp3 strains became prevalent in the Netherlands. This assumed increased virulence has been referenced in pretty much every clinically pertussis relevant study to come out since.

    That said, the claim of increased toxin production (the proposed mechanism for the proposed phenomenon of increasing hospitalisations/lethality) was based upon cultures of pertussis on solid medium and comparing multiple strains with different ptxp variants – firstly it is unclear how toxin production when cultured on an agar plate relates to production during an actual infection, and secondly the strains they were comparing differed in more than ptxp variants – they should have used identical bacteria that were genetically modified to differ *only* in their ptxp variant.

    And lastly a representative of the National Center for Immunisation Research and Surveillance has stated of the recent Australian experience: "Compared with epidemics in 1997 and 2002, many more infections have been reported even though there are fewer deaths and roughly the same number of hospitalisations." (
    This lack of the supposed phenomenon in a population that has also seen an increase in ptxp3, along with the poorly controlled nature of the toxin secretion experiments, utterly negates the available evidence that ptxp3-carrying strains are more virulent in my opinion.

    What I'm saying is, there is evidence the emerging variants are more virulent (Meryl Dorey didn't just make it up) it's just really poor quality.

    As for the claim the emerging genotypes are capable of evading the immunity induced by the vaccine, the current state of the evidence doesn't support that supposition at all (

    Keep up the great coverage of the global pertussis situation, your site's a great resource 🙂

      1. He posted about his article on his facebook page. He thinks that he has gotten under the skin of those who think that evolution is correct and he is proud of it.

        1. I was wondering why I had so many hits after publishing it. I found it on his Facebook page. I guess he doesn’t understand irony and humor, since it was merely a joke about Meryl Dorey who is actually dangerous. Ken Ham is a silly fool who has made millions from people’s stupidity and inability to understand science. And he’s wrong about my statements about pertussis evolving, but he has no clue.

  2. re:
    the vaccine may be capable of evading the current vaccine,

    this makes no sense. the first vaccine is the wrong word. you mean:
    the current strain of b.pertussis may be capable of evading the current vaccine’s antibodies,

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