Although the majority of patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) become chronically colonized with Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the mode of acquisition of infection remains unclear. Epidemiological studies using genotyping techniques suggest that person-to-person transmission of this organism may occur. All these studies have utilized sputum or throat swab samples. We have studied the regional microbiological flora of the lungs of five CF patients at post-mortem and genotyped P. aeruginosa strains found therein and in the major airway. We have shown that although in most cases major airway secretions accurately reflect the peripheral lung flora, in cases of multiple strain carriage, major airway cultures may not reflect all strains present in the periphery of the lung. This finding has implications for the interpretation of epidemiological studies that use genotyping of strains from sputum and throat swab samples to assess possible routes of transmission.