The postantibiotic effect (PAE) of dirithromycin and erythromycin against strains Streptococcus pyogenes group A M12, NCTC P1800, Streptococcus pneumoniae 23, Staphylococcus aureus Oxford strain 209, Moraxella catarrhalis 15616 and Haemophilus influenzae 5590 was investigated in vitro and in vivo by use of the tissue cage model in rabbits. By exposing strains to 2.5-5×MIC levels for 6 h or 12 h, both compounds induced in vitro PAEs of 1-9 h, and in two cases >20 h. Cultures in the PAE-phase were then re-exposed to subinhibitory concentrations (0.25×MIC and 0.5×MIC) of antibiotic and prolonged suppression of regrowth was obtained for 2->20 h. Following i.v. antibiotic treatment of rabbits (10 mg/kg or 20 mg/kg dirithromycin and 20 mg/kg or 40 mg/kg erythromycin) and bacterial infection of the implanted tissue cages in the same rabbit, the tissue cage fluid (TCF) was sampled 6 h after infection and regrowth was monitored by sampling from new tissue cages in untreated rabbits. These i.v. single doses of both antibiotics induced in vivo PAEs of >6 h, but <20 h against S. pyogenes. Suppression of regrowth in TCF was also obtained for ≧20 h on infection with exposed S. pyogenes in the PAE-phase in newly implanted tissue cages in rabbits that had been treated with low doses of antibiotic to produce subinhibitory concentrations in the TCF. Dirithromycin was in general as active as erythromycin in inducing PAE and in prolonging suppression of bacterial regrowth in the PAE phase.