The most common cause of infant mortality is diarrhea; the most common cause of bacterial diarrhea is Campylobacter jejuni, which is also the primary cause of motor neuron paralysis. The first step in campylobacter pathogenesis is adherence to intestinal mucosa. We found that such binding was inhibited in vitro by human milk and, with high avidity, by alpha1,2-fucosylated carbohydrate moieties containing the H(O) blood group epitope (Fuc alpha 1,2Gal beta 1,4GlcNAc em leader ). In studies on the mechanism of adherence, campylobacter, which normally does not bind to Chinese hamster ovary cells, bound avidly when the cells were transfected with a human alpha1,2-fucosyltransferase gene that caused overexpression of H-2 antigen; binding was specifically inhibited by H-2 ligands (lectins Ulex europaeus and Lotus tetragonolobus and H-2 monoclonal antibody), H-2 mimetics, and human milk oligosaccharides. Human milk oligosaccharides inhibited campylobacter colonization of mice in vivo and human intestinal mucosa ex vivo. Campylobacter colonization of nursing mouse pups was inhibited if their dams had been transfected with a human alpha1,2-fucosyltransferase gene that caused expression of H(O) antigen in milk. We conclude that campylobacter binding to intestinal H-2 antigen is essential for infection. Milk fucosyloligosaccharides and specific fucosyl alpha1,2-linked molecules inhibit this binding and may represent a novel class of antimicrobial agents.