Clinical and Epidemiological Study


, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 13-17

First online:

The Role of Bordetella Infections in Patients with Acute Exacerbation of Chronic Bronchitis

  • J. BonhoefferAffiliated withUniversity Children’s Hospital Basel
  • , G. BärAffiliated withUniversity Children’s Hospital Basel
  • , M. RiffelmannAffiliated withInstitute of Hygiene and Laboratory Medicine
  • , M. SolèrAffiliated withSt. Claraspital
  • , U. HeiningerAffiliated withUniversity Children’s Hospital Basel Email author 

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Acute exacerbations of chronic bronchitis (AECB) are associated with a variety of viral and bacterial infectious agents, some of which are potentially preventable by immunization. Bordetella pertussis, which causes whooping cough, has not been studied in this context. We aimed to assess the role of Bordetella infections in patients with AECB.

Patients and Methods:

Patients with AECB, who presented to participating private practices in Basel, Switzerland, between October 2000 and June 2002, were evaluated by a standardized questionnaire, nasopharyngeal swabs for culture (Bordetella spp.), and PCR (Bordetella spp. and selected other respiratory pathogens) and paired blood samples for serologic diagnosis of Bordetella infection.


A total of 26 patients (34-86 years of age) were recruited. All culture and PCR samples were negative. Serology revealed Bordetella infection in eight (31%) patients. Duration of cough was shorter in patients with Bordetella infection compared to those without Bordetella infection (mean 15 days vs 41 days, p = 0.04). Cough ≥ 21 days duration was present in three (43%) of seven patients with evidence of Bordetella infection compared to 17 (94%) of 18 controls (p = 0.012). Progression to convalescence from initial to follow-up visit after 4-6 weeks was comparable between both groups.


Bordetella infections appear to play a significant role in AECB and preventive measurements such as immunization with acellular pertussis vaccines should be considered. Extended investigations are necessary to confirm our preliminary and provocative findings.