To evaluate the role of Bordetella pertussis infection, 96 otherwise healthy 7- to 17-year-old subjects who were suffering from a cough lasting from 2 to 8 weeks were prospectively recruited. At enrolment, a nasopharyngeal swab and an oral fluid sample were obtained to search for pertussis infection by the detection of B. pertussis DNA and/or an elevated titre of anti-pertussis toxin IgG. Evidence of pertussis infection was found in 18 (18.7%; 95% confidence interval, 11.5-28.0) cases. In 15 cases, the disease occurred despite booster administration. In two cases, pertussis was diagnosed less than 2 years after the booster injection, whereas in the other cases it was diagnosed between 2 and 9 years after the booster dose. This study used non-invasive testing to show that pertussis is one of the most important causes of long-lasting cough in school-age subjects. Moreover, the protection offered by acellular pertussis vaccines currently wanes more rapidly than previously thought.