Despite excellent vaccine coverage in developed countries, whooping cough is a reemerging disease that can be caused by two closely related pathogens, Bordetella pertussis and B. parapertussis. The two are antigenically distinct, and current vaccines, containing only B. pertussis-derived antigens, confer efficient protection against B. pertussis but not against B. parapertussis. B. pertussis does not express the O antigen, while B. parapertussis retains it as a dominant surface antigen. Since the O antigen is a protective antigen for many pathogenic bacteria, we examined whether this factor is a potential protective antigen for B. parapertussis. In a mouse model of infection, immunization with wild-type B. parapertussis elicited a strong antibody response to the O antigen and conferred efficient protection against a subsequent B. parapertussis challenge. However, immunization with an isogenic mutant lacking the O antigen, B. parapertussis Deltawbm, induced antibodies that recognized other antigens but did not efficiently mediate opsonophagocytosis of B. parapertussis. The passive transfer of sera raised against B. parapertussis, but not B. parapertussis Deltawbm, reduced B. parapertussis loads in the lower respiratory tracts of mice. The addition of 10 microg of purified B. parapertussis lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which contains the O antigen, but not B. parapertussis Deltawbm LPS drastically improved the efficacy of the acellular vaccine Adacel against B. parapertussis. These data suggest that the O antigen is a critical protective antigen of B. parapertussis and its inclusion can substantially improve whooping cough vaccine efficacy against this pathogen.