Coliforms are the members of the indigenous gut flora that most often translocate to mesenteric lymph nodes. Very few strains of Escherichia coli found in cecal contents of rats are able to translocate. The present study investigated the role of the composition of the gut flora for the occurrence of bacterial translocation. Two strains of E. coli (KI-C1 and KI-C2), previously shown to translocate in rats subjected to stress, were given by oral inoculation to rats lacking these strains. A biochemical fingerprinting method was used to identify bacteria in cecal contents, on cecal epithelium, and in mesenteric lymph nodes. In a challenge study, the inoculated E. coli strains were shown to colonize the rats and persist for up to 75 days in cecum. Subsequently, one group was starved for 24 h and a second group was subjected to experimental hemorrhage and then starved for 24 h before sampling for bacteriological analyses from blood, cecum, and mesenteric lymph nodes. Two parallel groups of rats served as controls and were not inoculated but otherwise received the same treatment before sampling. In the inoculated group, starved for 24 h, seven out of 11 rats showed translocation, whereas in the noninoculated group one of 11 rats showed translocation (P < 0.05). In groups subjected to hemorrhage and then starved for 24 h, 15/22 rats in the inoculated and 5/20 rats in the noninoculated group showed translocation (P < 0.01). These findings show that orally inoculated KI-C1 and KI-C2 strains can colonize the gut and can substantially increase bacterial translocation in rats subjected to mild and severe stress. The composition of the gut flora seems to be an underestimated factor in the pathophysiology of bacterial translocation.