A Microbial Biorealm page on the genus Bordetella
Higher order taxa
Description and significance
Bordetella bacteria are gram-negative coccobacilli that cause respiratory disease in humans and animals. B. petrii is the only environmental species of this genus. B. pertussis is very closely related to B. parapertussis that resides in humans and sheep and is closely related to B. bronchiseptica that exists in pigs, dogs, cats, rats, rabbits, horses, and some primates (including humans). It was formerly thought that B. pertussis, which causes whooping cough, came from the sheep bacteria, but it is now believed to have come from pigs, which are reservoirs for many other human diseases. B. bronchiseptica causes tracheobronchitis, or kennel cough, in dogs, atrophic rhinitis in pigs, snuffles in rabbits, and respiratory disease in cats, however, this species is in uncommon in humans. B. parapertussis causes diseases similar to pertussis but milder, including bronchitis. B. avian causes the avian disease bordetellosis, which produces a respiratory tract infection in turkeys and in wild and domesticated birds.
Cell structure and metabolism
Bordetella is a gram-negative coccobacillus bacterium that occurs either in pairs or singularly. Therefore, they have the thin murein layer surrounded by an outer membrane containing lipopolysaccharide and phospholipids, and they do produce a capsule. This rod-shaped bacterium is non-motile, non-spore forming, and about 0.5-1.0 μm in length. The exception is B. bronchiseptica which is mobile. The bacterium performs respiratory metabolism and never performs fermentation. In addition, they are strict aerobes. The bacteria are fastidious, requiring more than the usual number of growth nutrients, and need a rich media that is often supplemented with blood in order to thrive. Even on the rich media, such as blood, the bacterium needs 3-6 days to form colonies because they are slow growing. They can also grow on synthetic medium that includes buffers, salts, an amino acid energy source, and growth factors which can include nicotinamide. The other selective growth media for Bordetella is charcoal agar.
B. pertussis is a strict human pathogen that takes residence in the respiratory tract. B. pertussis is not found in animals, and it survives poorly in the environment. B. bronchiseptica was originally isolated in dogs but then was later found in other species of animals, including pigs, rabbits, and rats. In 1967, B. avium was isolated from young turkeys and by 1993 there were reports of it being isolated in cockatiel chicks. Recent research shows that this strain has been isolated in chickens, finches, noble macaws, Japanese quails, and ostriches. The optimal temperature of survival for all species of Bordetella is 35-37°C, therefore they are termed mesophiles because they survive best in moderate conditions.
Transmission of B. pertussis is most commonly spread from person-to-person through small droplets of respiratory secretions traveling in the air. In rare instances, B. pertussis can be transmitted by contact with freshly contaminated particles alone. Occurrence of pertussis may increase in summer and fall. However, as previously noted, research indicates that the spread of pertussis follows no seasonal pattern. Common sites of infection include schools and day care centers because parents, caregivers, and older siblings are “reservoirs” for B. pertussis. In adults, symptoms are generally mild so these individuals may not seek any treatment. By not getting medical attention, their disease is still highly contagious allowing for continued transmission of the disease to children.
The transmission of Bordetella in birds seems to be through contact. It does not seem to be an airborne disease because an infected bird in a cage next to an uninfected bird in a cage will not spread the disease. In the case of humans, Bordetella is an airborne disease and is highly contagious.
There are several areas of research being conducted within the genus Bordetella.
B. petrii has been found in river sediment, polluted soil, marine sponges, and grass roots, and it contains a mobile genetic element that codes for proteins related to virulence factors. This research reveals an evolutionary link connecting the pathogenic Bordetella and environmental bacteria of the genera Achromobacter and Alcaligenes. B. petrii is unique because it lacks all of the known toxins that the rest of the Bordetella species produce.
B. pertussis is known to release adenylate cyclase toxin (CyaA) which is essential to its virulence factor in colonization of the host. The toxin is able to inhibit migration and activation of phagocytes which prevents bacterial killing and misdirects dendritic cell differentiation.
It was recently detected that patients with sickle cell disease are at an increased risk for infection with Bordetella holmesii, a recently discovered bacterium. Like the other species in this genus, the bacterium demonstrates fastidious growth. It has also been discovered that it follows an uncomplicated clinical course.
CDC Public Health Image Library. (1979). A photomicrograph of Bordetella (Haemophilus) pertussis bacteria using Gram stain technique, ID#2121. Retrieved November 16, 2008, from http://phil.cdc.gov/phil/details.asp
CDC Public Health Image Library & Carr, J. H. This scanning electron micrograph (SEM) depicted a number of Gram-negative Bordetella bronchiseptica coccobacilli bacteria. This organism is commonly found to be the cause of respiratory tract infections in dogs, as well as human beings whose immune system had been compromised including those who are infected by the HIV virus, ID#254. Retrieved November 16, 2008, from http://phil.cdc.gov/phil/details.asp
CDC Public Health Image Library & Clark, W. A. (1976). Bordetella bronchiseptica. Leifson flagella stain (digitally colorized), ID#1037. Retrieved November 16, 2008, from http://phil.cdc.gov/phil/details.asp
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Edited by Caitlin Buonanno, Carl Carrese, Kelly Considine, and Meghan Dick - students of Dr. Kirk Bartholomew