The aim of this assessor-blinded trial was to compare the immunogenicity and reactogenicity of a candidate diphtheria, tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine with reduced antigen content for diphtheria and pertussis (dTpa) with a licensed reduced adult-type diphtheria-tetanus vaccine Td (reduced diphtheria content) and with an experimental candidate monovalent acellular pertussis vaccine with reduced antigen content (pa). The dTpa and pa vaccines had identical pertussis antigen content. A total of 299 healthy adults (> or =18 years, mean age: 30.1 years+/-10.7) were randomised into 3 groups to receive a single dose of one of the study vaccines. In all groups, clinically significant reactions (severe) were infrequent (0-6%) and no serious adverse events were reported during the study. The incidence of local and systemic reactions following the administration of dTpa was comparable to the Td vaccine group. Of the total study group, prior to vaccination 52. 3 and 93.2% of the subjects had anti-diphtheria and anti-tetanus antibody levels > or = 0.1 IU/ml, respectively; and 73.1, 98.2 and 74.5% of the subjects were seropositive for pertussis toxin (PT), filamentous hemagglutinin (FHA) and pertactin (PRN) antibodies, respectively. One month after vaccination, a similar percentage of subjects in the dTpa and Td groups had anti-diphtheria (88.4% vs 90. 1%) and anti-tetanus (100% vs 98.9%) antibody levels > or =0.1 IU/ml. Similar anti-FHA (100%) and anti-PRN (98.9%) vaccine response rates were seen in the dTpa and pa groups, while the anti-PT vaccine response rates were 96.8 and 100.0%, respectively. The dTpa vaccine is as well tolerated and immunogenic as the licensed Td vaccine, and additionally, can also boost antibodies against pertussis.