Bordetella holmesii is a Gram-negative bacterium first identified in 1995. It can cause pertussis-like symptoms in humans. B. holmesii contains insertion sequences IS481 and IS1001, two frequently used targets in the PCR diagnosis of Bordetella pertussis and Bordetella parapertussis infections. To investigate the prevalence of B. holmesii in Finnish and Dutch patients with pertussis-like symptoms and whether B. holmesii has caused any false-positive results in diagnostic PCRs, B. holmesii-specific real-time PCRs were developed. The Finnish methods were conventional IS481 PCR and B. holmesii-specific real-time PCR (LightCycler, Roche) targeting the B. holmesii recA gene. The Dutch methods were IS481 and IS1001 PCRs with conventional or real-time formats and B. holmesii-specific real-time PCR targeting the homologue of IS1001. Of 11 319 nasopharyngeal swabs, 2804 were collected from Finnish patients from 2000 to 2003, and 8515 from Dutch patients from 1992 to 2003. B. holmesii DNA was not found in the samples analysed. The results suggest that B. holmesii is not among the causative agents of pertussis-like symptoms in Finnish and Dutch patients and thus does not in practice confound IS481 and IS1001 PCRs.