The aggregation of non-serotypable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHI) by whole saliva from patients with chronic obstructive lung disease (COLD) was investigated. Significant differences were observed between salivary aggregating activity of a control and COLD population (P < 0.001). Saliva from patients less prone to acute exacerbations had a greater capacity to aggregate bacteria compared with saliva from patients with a predilection to infection. The mechanism of saliva-mediated aggregation of NTHI was investigated and shown to be related to lysozyme content. Lysozyme activity in saliva was measured by the turbidimetric technique and results showed that patients with chronic bronchitis had increased levels of salivary lysozyme, with a subpopulation within the non-infection-prone group having greater amounts. A significant difference was observed in salivary lysozyme between controls and non-infection-prone (P < 0.005) and infection-prone (P < 0.05) patients, respectively: the non-infection-prone patients having significantly (P < 0.005) more than the infection-prone patients. There was significant correlation (r = 0.742, P < 0.001) between salivary aggregation of NTHI and lysozyme activity. Chromatographically purified human lysozyme had a similar aggregation profile to that of saliva. There was no difference in serum and saliva lactoferrin concentrations between groups, but there was a significant increase (P < 0.05) in serum lysozyme concentration in the non-infection-prone group. This study suggests that the level of salivary lysozyme derived from macrophages may play an important role in determining resistance or susceptibility to acute bronchitis.