Because patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) may be predisposed to airway infections with unusual microorganisms, we screened the sputum of adult CF patients for mycobacterial organisms. Acid-fast bacilli (AFB) smears and mycobacterial culture were performed on 297 sputum specimens from 87 patients. Cultures for mycobacteria were frequently overgrown with other bacteria; 22.6 percent of cultures were contaminated. Despite this limitation of mycobacterial culture, 17 patients had at least one positive culture for a Mycobacterium other than tuberculosis (MOTT). Eleven patients were positive for Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare (MAI), two for MAI and M chelonei, three for M chelonei, and one for M fortuitum. None was positive for M tuberculosis. Patients with CF with MOTT were similar to patients with CF without MOTT; only a slightly different (older) age distribution was recognized. The clinical significance of MOTT was difficult to determine in any individual patient, but patients with positive AFB smears appeared more likely to suffer pathogenic effects. We conclude that MOTT is frequently recovered from adult CF patients in the southeastern United States. A specific risk factor for colonization and/or pathogenic infection in this patient group was not evident. The general prevalence and clinical pathogenesis in CF patients in the United States remains to be determined.