Bacteriologic response to cefuroxime axetil and cefaclor administered for 10 days was evaluated in acute otitis media (AOM) in patients aged 6-36 months. Middle ear fluid culture was obtained by tympanocentesis before treatment, on day 4 or 5 after initiation of treatment, and if clinical relapse occurred before day 17. Bacteriologic failure was observed in 32% of patients receiving cefaclor versus 15% of patients receiving cefuroxime axetil (P = .009). Failure rates increased with increasing MIC: For Streptococcus pneumoniae, 0.5 μg/mL (established as cutoff value for cefuroxime by the National Committee for Clinical Laboratory Standards [NCCLS]) discriminated between success and failure. For Haemophilus influenzae, high failure rates were observed for cefaclor, even with low MICs (≤1.0 μg/mL), and with both drugs they tended to increase with increasing MIC, even for values below the cutoff suggested by the NCCLS (8.0 and 4.0 μg/mL for cefaclor and cefuroxime, respectively). Thus, for AOM caused by H. influenzae, lower susceptibility cutoff levels for MICs should be established.