People born during whooping cough outbreaks are more likely to die prematurely even if they survive into adulthood, research at Lund University in Sweden has found. Women had a 20 percent higher risk of an early death, and men a staggering 40 percent. Women also suffered more complications during and after pregnancy, with an increased risk of miscarriage as well as infant death within the first month of life.
"The results show the importance of following up patients with exposure to whooping cough in childhood, particularly pregnant women," says Luciana Quaranta, the PhD candidate at Lund University who is the author of the study, "Scarred for life. How conditions in early life affect socioeconomic status, reproduction and mortality in Southern Sweden, 1813-1968."
The landmark study used a globally unique database, the Scanian Economic Demographic Database, based on data from Sweden's extensive population registers. Quaranta mapped five communities between 1813 and 1968, in an effort to understand how conditions at birth, such as socioeconomic status and exposure to infectious diseases, affect us later in life.
Whooping cough, or pertussis, was widely considered to have been all but eradicated in many developed countries until recently. The UK, the U.S. and Australia have all seen outbreaks of the disease in the past two years.