The Viriato study is a prospective, multicentre laboratory-based surveillance study of antimicrobial susceptibility in which 30 microbiology laboratories throughout Portugal are asked to isolate, identify and submit to a central laboratory for testing Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Moraxella catarrhalis responsible for community-acquired lower respiratory tract infections and Streptococcus pyogenes from tonsillitis. To monitor changes in antimicrobial resistance patterns of these frequent respiratory pathogens. Susceptibility was determined by disk diffusion (Kirby-Bauer) or using Etest strips following the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute guidelines. From 1999 to 2007 over 13 900 isolates were analysed. Among S. pneumoniae penicillin non-susceptibility decreased from 25% in 1999 to 18% in 2007 (p = 0.002) but resistance to macrolides showed a steady increase, reaching 20% in the last 6 years. Resistance to amoxicillin and the quinolones remained stable and very low (1-2%) throughout the study period. Antimicrobial resistance among H. influenzae and M. catarrhalis remained stable. The most significant resistance was to ampicillin, of 10-12% and greater than 80%, respectively, as a result of the production of beta-lactamases. Macrolide resistance among S. pyogenes was stable during 1999-2003 (20-23%) but after 2003 there was a steady decline in resistance, which in 2007 reached 10%. The Viriato surveillance study showed that penicillin remains the most active antimicrobial agent against S. pyogenes causing tonsillitis, and amoxicillin-clavulanate and the quinolones are the most active in vitro simultaneously against S. pneumoniae, H. influenzae and M. catarrhalis responsible for community-acquired lower respiratory tract infections in Portugal.