Many colonic bacteria possess marked alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) activity and are capable of oxidizing ethanol to acetaldehyde both in vitro and in vivo. We have recently shown that part of ingested ethanol is metabolized to acetaldehyde in the colon during normal alcohol metabolism. To assess the contribution of this bacteriocolonic pathway for ethanol oxidation to total ethanol metabolism, the elimination rate of ethanol, faecal aerobic flora and faecal ADH activity were determined in rats before and after the treatment with ciprofloxacin (200 mg/kg/day) for four days. Ciprofloxacin treatment decreased ethanol elimination rate from 310+/-9 to 282+/-13 mg/kg/h (mean+/-SE; p<0.02), markedly reduced faecal aerobic flora, and also lowered faecal ADH activity from 63+/-17 to 17+/-7 nmol/min/mg faeces (p<0.05). Neither hepatic ADH nor microsomal ethanol oxidizing system activities were affected by the ciprofloxacin treatment. On the contrary, an acute intraperitoneal dose of ciprofloxacin had no effect on the rate of ethanol elimination. These results support the significant role of the bacteriocolonic pathway in total ethanol elimination, and open a new, microbiological, perspective for studies on ethanol metabolism and pathogenesis of alcohol related organ damages.