The role of infection in bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is unknown. We present an observational study of 55 premature infants born weighing less than 1.3 kg within two level III neonatal intensive care units. Endotracheal aspirates (ETA) and nasogastric aspirates (NGA) were studied with denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) profiling to elucidate the total bacterial community, and species-specific PCR was used to detect the presence of Mycoplasma hominis, Ureaplasma urealyticum, and Ureaplasma parvum. DGGE identified bacterial species in 59% of NGA and ETA samples combined. A diverse range of species were identified including several implicated in preterm labor. Species-specific PCR identified M. hominis in 25% of NGA and 11% of ETA samples. Among the 48 infants surviving up to 36 wk-postconceptual age, ordinal logistic regression showed the odds ratio for BPD or death where Ureaplasma was present/absent as 4.80 (95% CI 1.15-20.13). After adjusting for number of days ventilated, this was reduced to 2.04 (0.41-10.25). These data demonstrate how the combined use of DGGE and species-specific PCR identifies a high exposure in utero and around the time of birth to bacteria that might be causally related to preterm delivery and subsequent lung injury.