The effect of feeding live Lactobacillus reuteri cells containing active bile salt hydrolase (BSH) on plasma cholesterol levels was studied in pigs. During an experiment lasting 13 weeks, twenty pigs were fed on a high-fat, high-cholesterol, low-fibre for the first 10 weeks, and a regular pig diet for the last 3 weeks. One group of animals received, twice daily, 11.25 (SD 0.16) log10 colony forming units of the potential probiotic bacteria for 4 weeks (from week 3 until week 7). From week 8 onwards, the treated group was again fed on the same diet as the control group without additions. The total faecal Lactobacillus counts were only significantly higher in the treated pigs during the first 2 weeks of L reuteri feeding. Based on limited data, it was suggested that the administered Lactobacillus species had caused a temporary shift within the indigenous Lactobacillus population rather than permanently colonizing the intestinal tract. The probiotic feeding brought about significant lowering (P < or = 0.05) of total and LDL-cholesterol concentrations in the treated pigs compared with the control pigs, while no change in HDL-cholesterol concentration was observed. The data for faecal output of neutral sterols and bile salts were highly variable between the animals of each group, yet they indicated an increased output in the treated pigs. Although the blood cholesterol levels went up in both groups during the 3 weeks following the Lactobacillus administration period, significantly lower serum total and LDL-cholesterol levels were observed in the treated pigs. During the final 3 weeks of normalization to the regular diet, cholesterol concentrations significantly decreased in both animal groups and the differences in total and LDL-cholesterol concentrations between the groups largely disappeared.