ABSTRACT: The prevalence of pertussis in Tunisia remains undetermined essentially because of the unavailability of a basic laboratory diagnostic service. Specific diagnostic tools were applied for the first time in a Tunisian prospective study in order to get a first estimation of the prevalence of Bordetella pertussis/parapertussis infections and to evaluate their use to determine the epidemiologic characteristics of these infections in Tunisian infants. Between 2007 and 2011, a total of 626 samples from 599 infants aged <1 year with and without pertussoid cough were investigated for the presence of B. pertussis/parapertussis using culture and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The real-time PCR (RT-PCR) targets include IS481 commonly found in B. pertussis, B. bronchiseptica, and B. holmesii; IS1001 specific of B. parapertussis, in combination with the pertussis toxin promoter region gene (ptx) of B. pertussis; and the recA gene specific of B. holmesii. When possible, patients' household contacts provided nasopharyngeal aspirates (NPAs) for RT-PCR detection of B. pertussis/parapertussis or single-serum samples for anti-PT IgG quantification. All except 1 NPAs were negative by conventional culture, whereas PCR gave positive signals for 126 specimens (21%): B. pertussis, B. parapertussis, and Bordetella spp. were detected in 82%, 6%, and 4% of the samples, respectively. The simultaneous presence of B. pertussis and B. parapertussis was noted in 8% of the cases. Pertussis was reported throughout the year with a peak during the summer of the year 2009. The prevalence of Bordetella infection was 20% between 2007 and 2011. Most of these cases corresponded to patients younger than 6 months who received <3 doses of pertussis vaccine. Among the household contacts enrolled in the study, mothers seemed to be the likely source of infection. This study showed that pertussis is still prevalent in Tunisia and that the disease remains a public health problem affecting not only infants but also adults. Given this situation, sensitive and specific laboratory tests are needed to improve the accuracy of pertussis diagnosis.
Diagn Microbiol Infect Dis. 01/2012;