Six strains of lactic acid producing bacteria (LAB) were incubated (1 x 10(8)cfu/ml) with genotoxic faecal water from a human subject. HT29 human adenocarcinoma cells were then challenged with the resultant samples and DNA damage measured using the single cell gel electrophoresis (comet) assay. The LAB strains investigated were Bifidobacterium sp. 420, Bifidobacterium Bb12, Lactobacillus plantarum, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Enterococcus faecium. DNA damage was significantly decreased by all bacteria used with the exception of Strep. thermophilus. Bif. Bb12 and Lact. plantarum showed the greatest protective effect against DNA damage. Incubation of faecal water with different concentrations of Bif. Bb12 and Lact. plantarum revealed that the decrease in genotoxicity was related to cell density. Non-viable (heat treated) probiotic cells had no effect on faecal water genotoxicity. In a second study, HT29 cells were cultured in the presence of supernatants of incubations of probiotics with various carbohydrates including known prebiotics; the HT29 cells were then exposed to faecal water. Overall, incubations involving Lact. plantarum with the fructooligosaccharide (FOS)-based prebiotics Inulin, Raftiline, Raftilose and Actilight were the most effective in increasing the cellular resistance to faecal water genotoxicity, whereas fermentations with Elixor (a galactooligosaccharide) and Fibersol (a maltodextrin) were less effective. Substantial reductions in faecal water-induced DNA damage were also seen with supernatants from incubation of prebiotics with Bif. Bb12. The supernatant of fermentations involving Ent. faecium and Bif. sp. 420 generally had less potent effects on genotoxicity although some reductions with Raftiline and Elixor fermentations were apparent.