UNE research focus of ‘Press Herald’ article on worst-in-nation pertussis rates

As pertussis, a life-threatening bacterial infection, makes a comeback in Maine, Associate Professor Meghan May, Ph.D., is doing research that could lead to an improved vaccine.

Her research, which was conducted along with students in UNE’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, explains how and why the pertussis bacterium has mutated. The research was the subject of an article in the Maine Sunday Telegram.

“She said unvaccinated people transmitting the disease was a major reason the mutation happened – probably emanating from about 15-20 years ago – and now certain strains of the bacteria have become more common and can infect vaccinated people,” the article stated.

Maine has the highest pertussis rate in the nation at more than eight times the national average, and May said the state’s large pockets of unvaccinated children could be a contributing factor. She said that even though the vaccine is only 71-85 percent effective, pertussis spreads much more easily among unvaccinated populations.

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