In the present study, we explored whether the cilio-inhibitory effect induced by toxins derived from bacterial infections could be compensated for by a cilio-stimulatory effect of antibiotics. Human nasal epithelial cells (HNEC) expressing beating cilia were grown as monolayers. Ciliary beat frequency (CBF) was determined using an inverted microscope coupled with a high-speed digital camera. Clarithromycin and neomycin did not influence ciliary activity. Bacitracin, clindamycin, gramicidin and roxithromycin increased CBF significantly: by 50 +/- 12%, 54 +/- 16%, 31 +/- 16% and 31 +/- 18%, respectively. A 30 min exposure to Staphylococcus aureus enterotoxin B (SEB) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa lipopolysaccharide (PAL) decreased CBF significantly, by 37 +/- 16 and 28 +/- 12%, respectively. In contrast with exposure to the toxin alone, co-incubation of the nasal monolayer cells with PAL and bacitracin or clindamycin did not result in a decrease in CBF after 30 and 60 min. The effect of SEB could be compensated for by bacitracin but not by clindamycin. After a 12 h preincubation period with SEB, co-incubation with either bacitracin or clindamycin resulted in the complete recovery of CBF. This study suggests that topical antibiotic treatment of nasal infections could result in a dual positive effect, namely treatment of the bacterial infection and recovery of ciliary activity.