The role of anaerobic and aerobic microorganisms in the genesis of pneumonia or lung abscess in patients with historical, clinical, and radiologic findings suggestive of aspiration was compared to their role in similar patients without these findings. Bacterial specimens were obtained by transtracheal aspiration or thoracentesis. Anaerobes were isolated in 100% of the patients who were aspiration-prone as contrasted with only 20% of those who were not. Isolation of a single species or no growth was more common in the nonaspiration group, whereas multiple isolates were more common in the aspiration group. Patients with lung abscesses were treated with penicillin and all of them responded clinically, despite occasional recovery from the culture specimen penicillin-resistant organisms. This suggests that lung abscess may be the result of a synergistic bacterial infection.