Hyperoxaluria is a major risk factor for renal stones, and in most cases, it appears to be sustained by increased dietary load or increased intestinal absorption. Previous studies have shown that components of the endogenous digestive microflora, in particular Oxalobacter formigenes, utilize oxalate in the gut, thus limiting its absorption. We tested the hypothesis of whether oxaluria can be reduced by means of reducing intestinal absorption through feeding a mixture of freeze-dried lactic acid bacteria. Six patients with idiopathic calcium-oxalate urolithiasis and mild hyperoxaluria (>40 mg/24 h) received daily a mixture containing 8 x 10(11) freeze-dried lactic acid bacteria (L. acidophilus, L. plantarum, L. brevis, S. thermophilus, B. infantis) for four weeks. The 24-hour urinary excretion of oxalate was determined at the end of the study period and then one month after ending the treatment. The ability of bacteria to degrade oxalate and grow in oxalate-containing media, and the gene expression of Ox1T, an enzyme that catalyzes the transmembrane exchange of oxalate, also were investigated. The treatment resulted in a great reduction of the 24-hour excretion of oxalate in all six patients enrolled. Mean levels +/- SD were 33.5 +/- 15.9 mg/24 h at the end of the study period and 28.3 +/- 14.6 mg/24 h one month after treatment was interrupted compared with baseline values of 55.5 +/- 19.6 mg/24 h (P < 0.05). The treatment was associated with a strong reduction of the fecal excretion of oxalate in the two patients tested. Two bacterial strains among those used for the treatment (L. acidophilus and S. thermophilus) proved in vitro to degrade oxalate effectively, but their growth was somewhat inhibited by oxalate. One strain (B. infantis) showed a quite good degrading activity and grew rapidly in the oxalate-containing medium. L. plantarum and L. brevis showed a modest ability to degrade oxalate even though they grew significantly in oxalate-containing medium. No strain expressed the Ox1T gene. The urinary excretion of oxalate, a major risk factor for renal stone formation and growth in patients with idiopathic calcium-oxalate urolithiasis, can be greatly reduced with treatment using a high concentration of freeze-dried lactic acid bacteria. We postulate that the biological manipulation of the endogenous digestive microflora can be a novel approach for the prevention of urinary stone formation.