The significance of non-culturable forms of Campylobacter spp., especially with regard to the epidemiology of this organism in poultry flocks, was explored. Two different experiments were conducted to produce non-culturable Campylobacter spp. and test their ability to colonize the animal gut. In the first experiment a mixture of 28 different strains of Campylobacter spp. from various sources was inoculated in both sterilized surface water and potassium phosphate buffer and stored at 4 degrees C. After Campylobacter spp. were no longer detectable by culture in the microcosms, the mixtures of non-culturable cells were used to challenge both chicks and mice. Recovery of non-culturable Campylobacter spp. from the animals was not successful at 4 weeks after administration. In the second experiment the survival of six individual strains of Campylobacter spp. in sterilized surface water at 4 degrees C was studied and the resulting non-culturable cells were used to challenge chicks. None of the campylobacter strains could be recovered from the chicks at 2 weeks after administration. We conclude that occurrence of non-culturable forms of Campylobacter spp. capable of colonizing chicks is not a common phenomenon and that non-culturable forms of Campylobacter spp. are likely to be insignificant for importantly to the epidemiology of the organism in Dutch broiler flocks.