Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is a leading cause of health care-associated infection. It has a high rate of attributed mortality, and this mortality is increased in patients who do not receive appropriate empirical antimicrobial therapy. As a result of the overuse of broad-spectrum antimicrobials such as the carbapenems, strains of Acinetobacter, Enterobacteriaceae, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa susceptible only to polymyxins and tigecycline have emerged as important causes of VAP. The need to accurately diagnose VAP so that appropriate discontinuation or de-escalation of antimicrobial therapy can be initiated to reduce this antimicrobial pressure is essential. Practice guidelines for the diagnosis of VAP advocate the use of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid obtained either bronchoscopically or by the use of a catheter passed through the endotracheal tube. The CDC recommends that quantitative cultures be performed on these specimens, using ≥ 10(4) CFU/ml to designate a positive culture (http://www.cdc.gov/nhsn/TOC_PSCManual.html, accessed 30 October 2012). However, there is no consensus in the clinical microbiology community as to whether these specimens should be cultured quantitatively, using the aforementioned designated bacterial cell count to designate infection, or by a semiquantitative approach. We have asked Vickie Baselski, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, who was the lead author on one of the seminal papers on quantitative BAL fluid culture, to explain why she believes that quantitative BAL fluid cultures are the optimal strategy for VAP diagnosis. We have Stacey Klutts, University of Iowa, to advocate the semiquantitative approach.