The use of the "peritonitis rate" in the management of patients undergoing peritoneal dialysis is assuming importance in comparing the prowess of facilities, care givers and new innovations. For this to be a meaningful outcome measure, the type of infection (causative pathogen) must have less clinical significance than the number of infections during a time interval. The natural history of Staphylococcus aureus, pseudomonas, and fungal peritonitis would not support that the outcome of an episode of peritonitis is independent of the causative pathogen. Could this concern be extended to other more frequently occurring pathogens? To address this, the Network 9 Peritonitis Study identified 530 episodes of single organism peritonitis caused by a gram positive organism and 136 episodes caused by a single non-pseudomonal gram negative (NPGN) pathogen. Coincidental soft tissue infections (exit site or tunnel) occurred equally in both groups. Outcomes of peritonitis were analyzed by organism classification and by presence or absence of a soft tissue infection. NPGN peritonitis was associated with significantly more frequent catheter loss, hospitalization, and technique failure and was less likely to resolve regardless of the presence or absence of a soft tissue infection. Hospitalization and death tended to occur more frequently with enterococcal peritonitis than with other gram positive peritonitis. The outcomes in the NPGN peritonitis group were significantly worse (resolution, catheter loss, hospitalization, technique failure) compared to coagulase negative staphylococcal or S. aureus peritonitis, regardless of the presence or absence of a coincidental soft tissue infection. Furthermore, for the first time, the poor outcomes of gram negative peritonitis are shown to be independent of pseudomonas or polymicrobial involvement or soft tissue infections. The gram negative organism appears to be the important factor. In addition, the outcome of peritonitis caused by S. aureus is worse than that of other staphylococci. Thus, it is clear that all peritonitis episodes cannot be considered equivalent in terms of outcome. The concept of peritonitis rate is only meaningful when specific organisms are considered.