Nasal spray whooping cough vaccine aims to protect young bubs

Tiny babies could soon have much-needed protection from community transmission of potentially deadly whooping cough thanks to a world-first nasal spray vaccine being trialed at Telethon Kids Institute.

Researchers involved in the global SUPER Study will investigate if a nasal spray vaccine can provide superior protection against whooping cough by preventing the bacteria from causing an infection in the first place and therefore halting the spread to vulnerable young babies.

Professor Peter Richmond, Head of the Vaccine Trials Group at the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases, based at Telethon Kids Institute, Head of Immunology at Perth Children’s Hospital and Head of Paediatrics at The University of Western Australia, says whooping cough, caused by a bacteria called Bordetella pertussis, causes an infection in the upper airway and lungs and is known for its severe, long-lasting cough.

“Our current whooping cough vaccines work by producing antibodies in the blood, and while this has proven to be very effective in protecting people from getting seriously unwell, unfortunately we don’t yet have a vaccine with the ability to stop the infection from occurring, or prevent the illness passing to others,” says Professor Richmond.

“Whooping cough can be extremely dangerous for babies under six months of age – each year in Australia we see deaths and over 200 hospitalisations in babies too young to be fully immunised.

“While whooping cough is less likely to be life-threatening in older children, teenagers and adults, research has shown these age groups play a major role in transmitting the bacteria throughout the community.

“It is hoped that using a nasal spray vaccine could provide added protection by not only producing antibodies in the blood, but also in the nose and throat – preventing the bacteria from developing an infection and therefore ending the spread to community members most at risk.

“This is an incredibly exciting step forward for vaccine research and the outcome could save hundreds of families worldwide from going through the devastating experience of losing a child to whooping cough,” concludes Professor Richmond.

11-year-old Cadence is a research superstar, taking part in her first Telethon Kids whooping cough study at just five days of age, so she didn’t hesitate to sign up for the opportunity to take part in this ground-breaking new research.

“It’s exciting to be the first SUPER Study participant in Australia and I really enjoyed the chance to learn about medicine along the way,” says Cadence.

Telethon Kids Institute researchers are looking for healthy young people aged 6 – 17 to be part of 600 SUPER Study participants across Australia and the United Kingdom.

Recruitment is also underway at Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne.

For more information about the SUPER Study or to sign up, please visit


Text by: Telethon Kids Institute

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