Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis and Staphylococcus aureus colonization of the adenoids and nasopharynx in 103 preschool children who underwent adenoidectomy for recurrent upper respiratory tract infections was examined. Bacterial interactions and risk factors for bacterial colonization of the nasopharynx and adenoids, separately, were analysed statistically. The prevalence of simultaneous isolation from both anatomical sites was 45·6% for S. pneumoniae, 29·1% for H. influenzae, 15·5% for M. catarrhalis and 18·4% for S. aureus. Three pathogens were significantly more frequent together from adenoid samples; nasopharyngeal swabs more often yielded a single organism, but without statistical significance. M. catarrhalis and S. aureus significantly more frequently co-existed with S. pneumoniae and H. influenzae than with each other and a positive association of S. pneumoniae and H. influenzae in adenoid samples was evident. Several differences between risk factors for nasopharyngeal and adenoid colonization by the individual pathogens were observed. We conclude that the adenoids and nasopharynx appear to differ substantially in colonization by pathogenic microbes but occurrence of H. influenzae and S. pneumoniae in the nasopharynx could be predictive of upper respiratory tract infections.