Bacterial translocation from the intestinal lumen has been demonstrated in humans. Three mechanisms have been suggested to explain the phenomenon: altered intestinal barrier function, bacterial overgrowth, and impaired host defense. The aim of this study was to determine whether changes in intestinal barrier function assessed by measurement of intestinal permeability and morphology were associated with alteration in bacterial translocation. Intestinal permeability was assessed in 43 patients by the lactulose/L-rhamnose test with a 5-h urine collection. Mucosal atrophy was assessed from the villus height-to-mucosal thickness ratio in small-bowel biopsies. Bacterial translocation was determined by microbiologic analysis of harvested mesenteric lymph nodes. No significant differences were apparent in the incidence of bacterial translocation in patients with normal permeability (5 [23%] of 22 patients translocated) compared with patients with increased permeability (4 [19%] of 21 patients translocated). Similarly, no correlation was apparent between the incidence of bacterial translocation and the index of villus atrophy. The degree of villus atrophy failed to correlate with gastrointestinal permeability. These data suggest that the incidence of bacterial translocation is not related to increased intestinal permeability or mucosal atrophy.