The role of Blastocystis hominis as a pathogen for man has been controversially discussed, while travel history has been implicated as a risk factor of infection. Few controlled studies of the association between B. hominis and symptomatic diseases have been performed. Therefore, a case-control study among 795 German tourists returning from tropical countries was conducted. The prevalence of the organism among patients with and without symptoms was assessed. Blastocystis hominis was detected in 69 of 469 (14.7%) patients with diarrhoea and in 21 of 326 (5.7%) controls. However, other organisms causing diarrhoea were detected in 18 of the 69 (26.1%) symptomatic patients with B. hominis. Thus, 51 of 469 (10.8%) symptomatic patients had B. hominis in the absence of other pathogens in their stool, significantly more than in the asymptomatic group (5.2%; P = 0.005). Irrespective of the development of symptoms, the organism was most frequently acquired during journeys to the Indian subcontinent. The results of this study suggest that B. hominis is associated with development of diarrhoea in travellers to tropical destinations and that frequently concurrent infections with other organisms occur.