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To test our hypothesis that children with potentially pathogenic bacteria (Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae or Moraxella catarrhalis) in the nasal middle meatus might have more prolonged symptoms of acute respiratory infection than children without such bacteria, we conducted a prospective cohort study of such children.We recruited prospectively child volunteers between 6 and 13 years of age with acute respiratory infections present for fewer than 10 days. Nasal middle meatal bacterial culture was taken with a rigid endoscope at enrollment and again after 3 weeks and evaluated for presence or absence of 3 potential pathogens: S. pneumoniae, H. influenzae and M. catarrhalis. The subsequent persistence of acute symptoms (nasal discharge: clear/colored, nasal obstruction and cough) was determined by means of a diary. Viral etiology was studied with polymerase chain reaction methods.The 82 children had had symptoms for an average of 4 days (range, 1–10) at entry, and viruses were detected in 54% (39 of 72). The endoscopic procedure and bacteriologic sampling succeeded in all cases. Thirty-eight children (46%) had at least 1 of the 3 pathogens in the middle meatus specimen. The children with nasal pathogens present at entry had a significantly longer mean duration of symptoms than those with nonpathogenic bacteria (difference, 3.6 days; 95% confidence interval, 0.7–6.5; P = 0.025). The effect remained significant after adjustment for age, sex, allergic symptoms and the presence of virus (adjusted relative hazard of delayed recovery, 2.0; 95% confidence interval, 1.1–3.6).We found that the use of endoscopic swab culture sampling from the nasal middle meatus is well-tolerated by children older than 6 years of age and that it can be useful in selected situations to determine pathogenic bacteria in the culture of these specimens.