A multicentre surveillance study performed in the Far East during 1999-2000 investigated the in vitro activity of >20 antibacterials against common respiratory pathogens. In Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea, 57.1, 44.5 and 71.5% Streptococcus pneumoniae were penicillin-resistant and 71.4, 77.9 and 87.6% were erythromycin-resistant, respectively. Overall, >90% of penicillin-resistant strains were also macrolide-resistant. All strains were susceptible to telithromycin. Fluoroquinolone-resistant isolates in Japan (1.3%), Hong Kong (14.3%) and South Korea (2.9%) were mostly co-resistant to penicillin, macrolides and tetracycline. Beta-lactamase production by Haemophilus influenzae isolates was 8.5% in Japan, 17.1% in Hong Kong and 64.7% in strains from South Korea. A single (0.27%) BLNAR isolate was obtained in Japan. There was no fluoroquinolone resistance. Moraxella catarrhalis was inhibited by telithromycin at <or=0.5mg/l and remained susceptible to macrolides, fluoroquinolones and amoxicillin-clavulanate. Resistance to antibacterials, particularly penicillin and macrolides, has reached high but stable levels in the Far East and the presence of multiply-resistant pneumococci is well established.