Bordetella pertussis colonizes the cilia of the mammalian respiratory epithelium (Figure 1). Generally, it is thought that B. pertussis does not invade the tissues, but some recent work has shown the bacterium sequestered in alveolar macrophages. The bacterium is a pathogen for humans and possibly for higher primates, and no other reservoir is known. Whooping cough is a relatively mild disease in adults but has a significant mortality rate in infants. Until immunization was introduced in the 1940s, whooping cough was one of the most frequent and severe diseases of infants in the United States.
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