In order to determine the age of acquisition and duration of carriage of the first strains of Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae in the upper respiratory tract of Papua New Guinea children, 25 babies were recruited at, or shortly after birth. Nasal secretions from mothers and children were cultured at 1- to 2-weekly intervals. H. influenzae and S. pneumoniae were acquired within the neonatal period by 60% of the infants, and all were colonised by both organisms within the first 3 months of life. Carriage periods for H. influenzae ranged from 6 to 221 days (mean, 74 days), and for S. pneumoniae from 5 to 290 days (mean, 96 days). Penicillin resistance was detected in 36% of the first acquired strains of pneumococci. Mothers, generally either did not carry H. influenzae or S. pneumoniae, or harboured types different to those first acquired by their infants. However, one-third of mothers subsequently became colonised with H. influenzae and S. pneumoniae types similar to those carried by their babies.