The surveillance of pneumococcal antibiotic resistance and serotype distribution is hampered by the relatively low numbers of invasive pneumococcal infections. In Switzerland, a nationwide sentinel surveillance network was used to assess antibiotic resistance and serotype distribution among 1179 pneumococcal isolates cultured from 2769 nasopharyngeal swabs obtained from outpatients with acute otitis media or pneumonia during 1998 and 1999. The proportion of penicillin-susceptible pneumococcal isolates overall (87%) and among infants <2 years old (81%) was comparable to that of invasive isolates (90% and 81%, respectively). The high number of nasopharyngeal isolates allowed for the detection of a rapid increase in the number of penicillin-nonsusceptible pneumococcal (PNSP) strains in the West region of Switzerland, partly because of an epidemic caused by the 19F clone of Streptococcus pneumoniae. Clustering of risk factors for the carriage of PNSP isolates further explained the geographic variation in resistance rates. The nationwide sentinel surveillance of nasopharyngeal pneumococcus proved to be valuable for the monitoring of antibiotic resistance, risk factors for carriage of PNSP isolates, and serotype distribution and for the detection of the emergence of a new epidemic clone.