Pertussis research

Description of research

The main focus is in the immunity against pertusssis, diagnostics and characterisation of the B.pertussis organisms in Europe.

Since 2005 prof. Qiushui He and Jussi Mertsola have coordinated European collaboration to study of variation of B.pertussis strains in EU. Since 2009 they have been the leader of ECDC-funded project “EUpert-LabNet” to standardize diagnostic methods and develop a laboratory-based surveillance of pertussis in all EU memberstates.

The current leading project is PERISCOPE which will focus on three major areas:

  1. Setting up a comprehensive clinical research programme to study the immune response of individuals of all ages to pertussis infection and vaccination; 
  2.  the establishment of parallel clinical and pre-clinical models of pertussis infection, and
  3. the development of a comprehensive battery of state-of-the-art bioassays, to help reveal the markers of an effective and long-lasting immune response to pertussis infection in both clinical and preclinical study subjects.

PERISCOPE will also seek to study immunization in pregnancy to gain a better
understanding of the impact of maternal antibodies on the infant’s immune responses to pertussis.

Members of the research group

​Qiushui He, professor, Head of the National Pertussis Reference Laboratory (UTU)
Alex-Mikael Barkoff, PhD student                      
Aapo Knuutila, PhD student                   
Raakel Luoto, MD, PhD

EU-Pertstrain consortium
EU-Pertlabnet concortium
Periscope concortium

Selected publications

Barkoff AM, Mertsola J, Pierard D, Dalby T, Hoegh SV, Guillot S, Stefanelli P, van Gent M, Berbers G, Vestrheim D, Greve-Isdahl M, Wehlin L, Ljungman M, Fry NK, Markey K, He Q. Pertactin-deficient Bordetella pertussis isolates: evidence of increased circulation in Europe, 1998 to 2015. Euro Surveill. 2019 Feb;24(7).

PERISCOPE Consortium. PERISCOPE: road towards effective control of pertussis.
Lancet Infect Dis. 2018 Nov 28.

Barkoff AM, Mertsola J, Pierard D, Dalby T, Hoegh SV, Guillot S, Stefanelli P, van Gent M, Berbers G, Vestrheim DF, Greve-Isdahl M, Wehlin L, Ljungman M, Fry NK, Markey K, Auranen K, He Q. Surveillance of Circulating Bordetella pertussis Strains in Europe during 1998 to 2015. J Clin Microbiol. 2018 Apr 25;56(5).

Lönnqvist E, Barkoff AM, Mertsola J, He Q. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing of Finnish Bordetella pertussis isolates collected during 2006-2017. J Glob Antimicrob Resist. 2018 Sep;14:12-16.

Salminen T, Knuutila A, Barkoff AM, Mertsola J, He Q. A rapid lateral flow immunoassay for serological diagnosis of pertussis. Vaccine. 2018 Mar 7;36(11):1429-1434.

Zöldi V, Sane J, Nohynek H, Virkki M, Hannila-Handelberg T, Mertsola J. Decreased incidence of pertussis in young adults after the introduction of booster vaccine in military conscripts: Epidemiological analyses of pertussis in Finland, 1995-2015. Vaccine. 2017 Sep 18;35(39):5249-5255.

van Gent M, Heuvelman CJ, van der Heide HG, Hallander HO, Advani A, Guiso N, Wirsing von Kőnig CH, Vestrheim DF, Dalby T, Fry NK, Pierard D, Detemmerman L, Zavadilova J, Fabianova K, Logan C, Habington A, Byrne M, Lutyńska A, Mosiej E, Pelaz C, Gröndahl-Yli-Hannuksela K, Barkoff AM, Mertsola J, Economopoulou A, He Q, Mooi FR. Analysis of Bordetella pertussis clinical isolates circulating in European countries during the period 1998-2012. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2015 Apr;34(4):821-30.

Bart MJ, Harris SR, Advani A, Arakawa Y, Bottero D, Bouchez V, Cassiday PK, Chiang CS, Dalby T, Fry NK, Gaillard ME, van Gent M, Guiso N, Hallander HO, Harvill ET, He Q, van der Heide HG, Heuvelman K, Hozbor DF, Kamachi K, Karataev GI, Lan R, Lutynska A, Maharjan RP, Mertsola J, Miyamura T, Octavia S, Preston A, Quail MA, Sintchenko V, Stefanelli P, Tondella ML, Tsang RS, Xu Y, Yao SM, Zhang S, Parkhill J, Mooi FR. Global population structure and evolution of Bordetella pertussis and their relationship with vaccination. MBio. 2014;5:e01074.


 M.D, Ph.D. Jussi Mertsola