Molecular diagnostic methods are becoming increasingly available for assessment of acute lower respiratory illnesses (ALRI). However, nasopharyngeal/oropharyngeal (NP/OP) swabs may not accurately reflect etiologic agents from the lower respiratory tract where sputum specimens are considered as a more representative sample. The pathogen yields from NP/OP against sputum specimens have not been extensively explored, especially in tropical countries. We compared pathogen yields from NP/OP swabs and sputum specimens from patients ≥18 years hospitalized with ALRI in rural Western Kenya. Specimens were tested for 30 pathogens using TaqMan Array Cards (TAC) and results compared using McNemar's test. The agreement for pathogen detection between NP/OP and sputum specimens ranged between 85-100%. More viruses were detected from NP/OP specimens whereas Klebsiella pneumoniae and Mycobacterium tuberculosis were more common in sputum specimens. There was no clear advantage in using sputum over NP/OP specimens to detect pathogens of ALRI in adults using TAC in the context of this tropical setting.