By Julie Robotham
DANGEROUS new strains of whooping cough bacteria are evading Australia’s vaccine against the disease and entrenching a four-year epidemic that could spread overseas, Sydney scientists have found in research that raises questions about the national immunisation program.
Microbiologists from the University of NSW have found variants of the pertussis bacteria with a particular genetic signature have increased to 86 per cent of all samples taken from infected people after a continuing disease epidemic began in 2008.
Although the strains were present in Australia as early as 2000, they accounted for only 31 per cent of all samples collected between 2000 and 2007 – suggesting they have flourished alongside the current vaccine against the potentially fatal respiratory infection.
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