The infectivity of two Blastocystis hominis strains, RN94-9 and NIH:1295:1, was examined in 3-week-old SPF Wistar rats. The NIH:1295:1 strain, originally isolated from a guinea pig, was only able to infect rats via intracecal inoculation of the cultured organisms, while the RN94-9 strain, originally isolated from a laboratory rat, was able to infect rats by oral inoculation of the cultures due to the presence of a cystic form in the in vitro culture. Since many cysts were discharged in the feces of the infected rats, the infectivity of the concentrated cysts was compared between the two strains. Successful oral infection was observed in rats inoculated with 1 x 10(2)-1 x 10(6) cysts of the RN94-9 and NIH:1295:1 strains. The infectivity of the ten cysts varied in the three experiments of ten rats, being 20-100% and 30-100% in the RN94-9 and NIH:1295:1 strains, respectively. When an uninfected normal rat was housed with five experimentally inoculated rats, the normal rat became infected, demonstrating the fecal-oral transmission of the cyst form of this parasite. These results show that the Wistar rat is an ideal host for the propagation of strains RN94-9 and NIH:1295:1 of B. hominis, and demonstrate that the cyst form is the only transmissible form of this parasite.