This study was carried out to elucidate the possible mechanism(s) responsible for reduced oral rifampicin bioavailability after multiple dosing. In addition to autoinduction, the relative contribution of the two possible controlling factors, e.g., intestinal metabolism and microbial degradation, was investigated using a rat model. Pharmacokinetic studies were carried out to assess the absolute rifampicin bioavailability by both oral and intravenous drug administration before and after 8 daily doses of 25 mg/kg. To estimate the possible involvement of microbial degradation, rifampicin kinetics were also assessed in rats on day 8 after receiving multiple oral dosing and concurrent administration of nonabsorbable triple antibiotics for gut sterilization 3 days prior to the study day. Pharmacokinetic parameters were generated by noncompartmental analysis. The results revealed a significant decrease in rifampicin levels for rats after multiple exposure, compared to single dosing; the mean clearance determined by intravenous dosing increased by 43% from 3.7 ml/min/kg and the half-life decreased by 24% from 238 min. However, the extent of decrease in rifampicin exposure following multiple dosing was substantially greater for rats dosed orally than intravenously; estimated absolute oral bioavailability decreased by 15% from 0.89 on day 1 to 0.76 on day 8. No apparent alterations in any of the pharmacokinetic parameters were observed after gut sterilization, suggesting minimal contribution of microbial degradation to the reduction in oral rifampicin absorption after multiple dosing. In addition to hepatic enzyme autoinduction, these results strongly suggest the involvement of enhanced intestinal metabolism as a contributing factor to the decrease in oral rifampicin bioavailability following prolonged exposure.