New Passive Immunization Techniques to Treat Whooping Cough

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a disease that claims the lives of 195,000 children across the globe annually. Jennifer Maynard, a chemical engineer at the University of Texas at Austin, is working on a better way to treat it. Her team is on the cusp of a therapeutic injection to treat the symptoms of pertussis and the painful coughing fits that come with the illness. Maynard's passive immunization techniques gives babies who've had exposure to pertussis 'instant immunity' using a mixture of two antibodies. The first binds to the whooping cough toxin, preventing it from attaching to healthy cells. The second stops the toxin from reaching its target within a healthy cell. "It gives this one-two punch to deal with the toxin," says Maynard. The therapeutic can also help babies who've contracted the disease by alleviating their symptoms, which are caused by toxin, in conjunction with antibiotics that eliminate the bacteria that causes the illness.