The efficacy of orally administered sucralfate suspension in preventing and treating chemotherapy-induced mucositis was evaluated in a double-blind trial. Forty-eight children and adolescents with newly diagnosed acute nonlymphocytic leukemia were randomized to receive suspensions of either sucralfate or placebo orally every 6 hours during the first 10 weeks of intensive remission-induction chemotherapy. Patients given sucralfate suspension were less likely than subjects receiving placebo to acquire colonization with potentially pathogenic microorganisms: 14 (58%) of 24 versus 22 (92%) of 24, respectively (p = 0.008). However, no effect on preexisting colonization was noted. Subjective reporting of discomfort, objective scoring of the severity of mucositis, and the maximal percent of body weight lost during therapy were similar; 58% of patients receiving sucralfate reported no oral pain compared with 25% receiving placebo (p = 0.06). Ten episodes of gastrointestinal bleeding, 25 documented infections, and 886 days with fever were also equally distributed between sucralfate and placebo groups. We conclude that sucralfate suspension is of limited, if any efficacy, in the prevention and treatment of chemotherapy-induced mucositis. Sucralfate administration can, however, reduce acquisition of alimentary colonization with potential pathogens, perhaps by interfering with adherence to mucosal membranes.