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Pertussis: Cause & Symptoms of Whooping Cough

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  • 0:05 The Hundred Years' War
  • 0:41 Bordetella Pertussis
  • 1:34 Respiratory Cilia
  • 2:44 Symptoms, Prevention,…
  • 3:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will describe Bordetella pertussis, whooping cough, the hundred days' cough, respiratory cilia, and the signs, symptoms, prevention, and treatment associated with pertussis.

The Hundred Years' War

In the 14th century, England and France went to war for over 100 years. Incredible battles were fought; famous people, like Joan of Arc, were also involved. One other thing that certainly occurred in conjunction with a lot of bloodshed in the hundred years' war was disease.

The type of disease that we will be focusing on in this lesson is sometimes called the 100 days' cough, for it may cause an infection for quite a long time. While not exactly as long as a hundred years' war, it's long enough as it is.

Bordetella Pertussis

The cause of this sometimes incredibly long infection is known as Bordetella pertussis, which is a Gram-negative aerobic bacterium that causes a condition known as pertussis. Pertussis is the more formal name for a disease colloquially called whooping cough or the 100 days' cough, as I just mentioned.

The fact that Bordetella pertussis is aerobic means it needs oxygen for growth, and it's called Gram-negative because it doesn't have as thick of a protective wall as a Gram-positive bacterium would.

In any case, pertussis is a very contagious disease that spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The most dangerous part about the bacterium that causes this disease is that it has weapons of war, just like those used by the French and English during their hundred years' war.

Respiratory Cilia

One such weapon used in medieval wars was known as a bill. This weapon didn't just have a spear on it, but also a contained a hook. This hook was really great for trying to attach to someone, like a knight. If the hook on the bill attached to the knight, he could be knocked off of his horse and killed by soldiers on the ground much more effectively.

Well, when Bordetella pertussis enters a person's respiratory tract, it uses its own bill-like weapons to help it attach to the ciliated cells of the respiratory tract. The respiratory cilia are essentially little hair-like structures on top of some of the cells lining our respiratory tract. These cilia play an important role in clearing gunk, which is full of nasty debris and pathogens, out of our respiratory tract.

Once Bordetella pertussis has used its hooks to latch onto the cilia, it releases toxins that end up hurting and destroying the cilia, like a knight would be hurt and destroyed after being attacked. If the cilia are hurt, then the person infected by Bordetella pertussis will have a much more difficult time recovering from the infection.

Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

Thankfully, there are other weapons of war we can use, like shields in a battle, to defend ourselves against the bill-like weapons of Bordetella pertussis.

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