Mechanisms underlying the conditioning influence of the intestinal flora on mucosal homeostasis, including development and function of immune responses, are attracting increasing scientific scrutiny. The intestinal flora is a positive asset to host defense, but some of its components may, in genetically susceptible hosts, become a risk factor for development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It follows that strategies to enhance assets or offset microbial liabilities represent a therapeutic option; therein lies the rationale for manipulation of the flora in IBD. In addition, the diversity of regulatory signalling among the flora and host epithelum, lymphoid tissue, and neuromuscular apparatus is an untapped reservoir from which novel therapeutics may be mined. Moreover, the capacity to engineer food-grade or commensal bacteria to deliver therapeutic molecules to the intestinal mucosa promises to extend the scope of microbial manipulation for the benefit of mankind.