Infection with Mycoplasma pneumoniae has been shown to exacerbate asthma in humans. However, the role of M. pneumoniae in the pathogenesis of chronic asthma has not been defined. Eighteen asthmatics with chronic, stable asthma and 11 nonasthmatic control subjects underwent evaluation of the upper and lower airways and serologic analysis to determine the presence of M. pneumoniae, Chlamydia pneumoniae, and seven respiratory viruses through culture, enzyme-linked immunoassay (EIA) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). M. pneumoniae was detected by PCR in 10 of 18 asthmatics and one of 11 control subjects (p = 0.02). In nine of the 10 patients, the organism was detected in bronchoalveolar lavage or bronchial biopsies. Seven of 18 asthmatics and one of 11 control subjects were also positive for M. fermentans and M. genitalium by PCR. All patients' cultures, EIAs, and serology were negative for M. pneumoniae. All PCR and cultures were negative for C. pneumoniae, and all EIAs for respiratory viruses were negative in all subjects. Nine asthmatics and one control subject exhibited positive serology for C. pneumoniae (p = 0.05). M. pneumoniae was present in the lower airways of chronic, stable asthmatics with greater frequency than control subjects, and may play a role in the pathogenesis of chronic asthma.