The prevalence and mechanism of erythromycin resistance in commensal throat streptococci was determined from October 2000 until December 2002 as part of an ongoing study of the NIVEL in general practice patients (N=678). Resistance prevalence for 1mg/L and 16 mg/L erythromycin was 57% and 20%, respectively. The percentage of total commensal flora resistant within each patient ranged from 1% to 100% (median, 1%). mefA was predominantly found among isolates on the 1mg/L plates, and ermB was found in 64% of the isolates on the 16 mg/L plates. Erythromycin resistance was transferred from a commensal isolate to Streptococcus pneumoniae with a frequency of 1 x 10(-9). Commensal streptococci of general practice patients in The Netherlands form a large reservoir of transferable erythromycin resistance (genes) for potential pathogenic microorganisms.