Ecological studies indicate that most Lactobacillus species found in the human gastrointestinal tract are likely to be transient (allochthonous), originating from either the oral cavity or food. In order to investigate if oral lactobacilli constitute a part of the faecal Lactobacillus biota, the Lactobacillus biota of saliva and faeces of three human subjects were investigated and compared at two time-points in a 3-months interval. Bacteriological culture, performed by incubation under standard (37 degrees C, anaerobic) and alternative (30 degrees C, microaerobic) conditions, as well as PCR-DGGE with group-specific primers were used to characterize the predominant lactobacilli. Cell counts varied among the subjects and over time, reaching up to 10(7)CFU/ml in saliva and 5 x 10(6)CFU/g in faecal samples. The species composition of the Lactobacillus biota of human saliva and faeces was found to be subject-specific and fluctuated to some degree, but the species Lactobacillus gasseri, Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus vaginalis were detected at both time-points in saliva and faecal samples of individual subjects. RAPD-PCR analysis indicated that several strains of these species were present both in the oral cavity and in the faecal samples of the same subject. Oral isolates of the species L. gasseri and L. vaginalis showing identical RAPD types were found to persist over time, suggesting that these species are autochthonous to the oral cavity. Our results together with recent published data give strong evidence that some lactobacilli found in human faeces are allochthonous to the intestine and originate from the oral cavity.