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  • 1 Western Diagnostic Pathology Department of Microbiology 74 McCoy St. Myaree Western Australia 6154 Australia
  • | 2 University of Notre Dame Australia Fremantle Western Australia 6160 Australia
  • | 3 University of Western Australia Nedlands Western Australia 6009 Australia
  • | 4 Princess Margaret Hospital for Children Department of Microbiology, PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA Thomas St. Subiaco Western Australia 6008 Australia
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We assessed IgA antibodies and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for diagnosis of pertussis in nasopharyngeal aspiration (NPA) samples from outpatients in Australia.A total of 1700 patients (849 adults, 851 children) from Western Australia and the Northern Territory fulfilled the laboratory case definition for pertussis between 2004 and 2013: 732 specimens were positive by NPA IgA alone, 559 by PCR alone, and 409 by both tests. Overall, 968 cases (56.8%) were positive by PCR and 1141 cases (67.2%) by IgA [p < 0.00025]. Among pediatric patients, PCR was positive in 524 (61.3%) and IgA in 569 (67%). In 849 adult cases, the respective proportions were 52.3% and 67.4% [p < 0.00025].The duration of cough in 507 patients was shorter in 262 pediatric cases (mean, 2.51 weeks; standard deviation [SD], 2.25) than 245 adult patients (3.27 weeks; SD, 2.79) [p = 0.0009]. PCR positivity showed a season-dependent variance (range, 5.6 to 85.9%) and peaked in the second week (71.7%) of illness. IgA antibodies peaked in the fifth week (89.5%) postinfection, and the positivity rate for NPA IgA was less variable (range, 38.3–97.2%).Nasopharyngeal Bordetella pertussis-specific IgA antibodies are valuable in diagnosis of pertussis in Australia. Reliance on PCR alone misses a significant proportion of pertussis cases, especially those with a delayed presentation.

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