Male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly divided into five groups in which group 1 received a sham operation (controls), groups 2-5 underwent common bile duct ligation and transection 14 days before the experiments. Two days prior to the studies, animals in groups 1 and 2 received saline orally, while groups 3-5 received an oral administration of either cholic acid, deoxycholic acid or whole bile. Specimens were taken for bacterial culture, and blood was collected for endotoxin assay. The rate of positive bacterial cultures from mesenteric lymph nodes in jaundiced saline-treated animals was significantly higher (p < 0.05) as compared with both controls and the other jaundiced animals treated with either bile or bile acids. Assays were positive for endotoxin in the jaundiced saline-treated group, whereas they were negative in both controls and bile- or bile-acid-treated animals. We conclude that oral administration of cholic acid, deoxycholic acid or whole bile inhibited bacterial translocation and endotoxin absorption in obstructive jaundice in the rat.