The inflammatory activity of colonic mucosal lesions may be stimulated by intraluminal bacteria. Our aim was to investigate whether administration of broad-spectrum antibiotics decreases inflammatory activity in ulcerative colitis. To this end, we performed a randomized, 5-day study with either oral enterically coated amoxicillin-clavulanic acid (1 g + 250 mg, t.i.d.); i.v. methylprednisolone (40 mg/day) and oral placebo (t.i.d.); or both i.v. methylprednisolone and oral amoxicillin-clavulanic acid as above, in 30 patients with clinically active ulcerative colitis. Before and after 5 days of treatment, intestinal inflammation was assessed by the quantification of mucosal release of eicosanoids and interleukin-8 by rectal dialysis in each patient. Breath H2 excretion after oral lactulose was determined as an index of metabolic activity of colonic flora. The total release of (IL-8) interleukin-8 and eicosanoids significantly decreased in patients treated with antibiotic or steroids and antibiotic. Antibiotic treatment, but not steroids, markedly inhibited breath H2 excretion. In conclusion, short-term treatment with enteric-coated amoxicillin-clavulanic acid decreases the intraluminal release of IL-8 and other inflammatory mediators.