Infections with the gram-negative bacteria Bordetella pertussis (B. pertussis) have long been recognized as a significant threat to children and are increasingly recognized as a cause of cough in adolescents and adults. Antibiotic therapy, when administered during the virulent stages of the disease, can reduce the duration and severity of symptoms. Unfortunately, there are no effective treatments for the persistent coughing that accompanies and follows the infection. The pathogenesis of B. pertussis infection is briefly reviewed. Also discussed is the evidence supporting the hypothesis that the inflammatory peptide bradykinin may be responsible for the persistent, paroxysmal coughing associated with B. pertussis-initiated illness.