BACKGROUND: This longitudinal study describes the associations between respiratory viral infections, rhinitis and the prevalence and density of the common nasopharyngeal bacterial colonizers, Streptococcus pneumoniae (Sp), Moraxella catarrhalis (Mc), Haemophilus influenzae (Hi) and Staphylococcus aureus. METHODS: In an observational cohort study, 161 children attending day care centers in Bristol, United Kingdom, were recruited. Monthly nasopharyngeal swabs were taken and stored frozen in Skim-milk, tryptone, glucose and glycerin broth (STGG) broth. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction was used for detection of respiratory viruses and 4 bacterial species. t tests and logistic regression models were used for analysis. RESULTS: The frequent colonisers, Sp, Mc and Hi were more frequently found at high density in contrast to Staphylococcus aureus although temporally, high-density carriage was short lived. Respiratory viral infections and symptoms of rhinitis were both independently and consistently associated with higher bacterial density with an observed 2-fold increase in density for Sp, Mc and Hi (P = 0.004-0.017). CONCLUSIONS: For Sp and Hi, the association between young age and higher bacterial DNA density was explained by more frequent viral infection and increased nasal discharge, while the associations between some viral specie's and some bacterial species' density appear to be stronger than others. Increased colonization density and rhinitis may promote transmission of these commonly carried organisms.