To assess the frequency of extracellular superoxide (O-2) production by enterococci, multiple species were surveyed in a whole organism assay for their ability to reduce ferricytochrome c in a superoxide dismutase-inhibitable fashion. For stool and clinical enterococcal isolates and 12 type strains, only Enterococcus faecalis (87/91 isolates and ATCC 19433), Enterococcus faecium (5/13 isolates), Enterococcus casseliflavus (ATCC 25778), and Enterococcus gallinarum (ATCC 35038) produced extracellular O-2. Among 106 strains comprising 13 species of enteric gram-negative bacilli and gram-positive cocci, only Lactococcus lactis subspecies lactis produced extracellular O-2. Mean (+/-SE) rates of extracellular O-2 production in vitro by E . faecalis for isolates associated with bacteremia and endocarditis and for isolates from stool were 2.4+/-0.2, 1.9+/-0.2, 1.5+/-0.3 nmol of O-2 min(-1) 10(9) cfu(-1), respectively (P=.025, analysis of variance), suggesting an association between invasiveness and extracellular O-2 production.