The microbiological contamination of 250 breathing system tubes after use in anaesthesia circle systems with reduced fresh gas flow was investigated. The lungs of 50 patients were ventilated without any filtering device between the endotracheal tube and the Y-piece. A total of 51, 49 and 100 patients, respectively, were given different types of heat and moisture exchanger with electret filters (HMEF). With no filtering device the tubing system was contaminated by micro- organisms originating from the patient's tracheal secretion in 13% of the patients. In contrast, no bacterial migration into the tubing system was detected when any of the investigated HMEF-devices were used. We therefore conclude that heat and moisture exchangers with electret filters prevent contamination of the anaesthesia breathing system with microorganisms from the patients airways.