Evidence from studies of trauma patients suggests that selective decontamination of the digestive tract (SDD) might also be of value in preventing colonization and infection by enteric organisms in burn patients. In a retrospective study, 31 consecutive patients with burns of >30% of total body surface area, admitted over a 2-year period, who were treated with an SDD regimen, were compared with a similar group of 33 consecutive patients admitted in the 2 years immediately preceding the introduction of SDD. Fewer SDD-treated patients developed wound colonization with Pseudomonas species (29% vs. 61%), or with Enterobacteriaceae (10% vs. 73%). Similar reductions in colonization with gram-negative organisms were found in urine and gastric aspirates. There were fewer respiratory infections in the SDD group (6.5% vs. 27.3%), and only one patient developed septicemia, compared with eight in the control group (3.2% vs. 24.2%). Fewer SDD-treated patients died (one death, compared with seven in the non-SDD group). These results suggest that SDD may be of value in the management of patients with severe burn injuries, but further studies are required to test the validity of this conclusion.