The potential beneficial effect of exogenous administration of Lactobacillus on acetic acid-induced colitis was evaluated in the rat. Colitis was induced by instillation of 4% acetic acid for 15 sec in an exteriorized colonic segment. This produced uniform colitis with a threefold increase in myeloperoxidase (MPO) activity of the colonic tissue (an index of neutrophil infiltration) and a sixfold increase in plasma exudation into the lumen of the colon (mucosal permeability) as evaluated 4 days after acetic acid administration. Intracolonic administration of L. reuteri R2LC immediately after acetic acid administration, at a dose of 5 ml of 7 x 10(7) colony-forming units (CFU)/ml in two forms: either as pure bacterial suspension or as fermented oatmeal soup, prevented the development of colitis. Thus, the morphologic score, MPO activity, and mucosal permeability were almost normalized by Lactobacillus treatment. Initiating the treatment 24 h after acetic acid administration or using lower doses of 1 ml for 3 consecutive days resulted in a smaller protective effect. We conclude that exogenous administration of L. reuteri R2LC prevents the development of acetic acid-induced colitis in the rat.