MADRID (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Infants hospitalized for pertussis are more likely to develop severe disease requiring pediatric ICU admission if they are experiencing apnea, are unvaccinated against pertussis, or are less than 2 months old, Maria Arranz, MD, reported at the annual meeting of the European Society for Paediatric Infectious Diseases.

“The presence of these parameters on admission should warn us of possible severe disease,” said Dr. Arranz of Gregorio Maranon Hospital in Madrid.

Also, infants with severe pertussis develop significantly higher peak levels of leukocytes, lymphocytes, and neutrophils during their hospital stay, although not necessarily on admission, she added.

Dr. Arranz presented a retrospective observational study of 101 children under 1 year of age who were hospitalized for pertussis at the Madrid tertiary center prior to the hospital’s 2016 shift to a strategy of maternal immunization during pregnancy as a means of preventing pertussis in infancy. Thirteen percent of the children required admission to the pediatric ICU and thus by definition had severe disease.

Half of infants in the study were not vaccinated against pertussis. That proved to be a powerful risk factor for severe disease requiring an ICU stay. Only 8% of children with severe pertussis were vaccinated, compared with a 58% vaccination rate among those who avoided the ICU.

Apneic pauses were noted in 67% of the severe disease group, compared with 28% of the infants who didn’t need the ICU.

The pertussis patients admitted to the pediatric ICU averaged 1 month of age, compared with age 2 months in the nonsevere group.

The maximum leukocyte, lymphocyte, and neutrophil counts during the hospital stay of the severe disease group averaged 23,600 cells/mm3, 18,000/mm3, and 5,000/mm3, respectively, significantly greater than the 15,300, 10,700, and 3,900 cells/mm3 in infants who did not require the ICU. Levels of all three cells also were higher at admission in the severe pertussis group than in those who didn’t make it to the ICU, albeit not statistically significantly so.

Dr. Arranz reported having no financial conflicts of interest regarding her study.


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