We determined the ability of Staphylococcus epidermidis, Staphylococcus aureus, and Escherichia coli to survive and grow in peritoneal dialysis fluids from patients undergoing chronic ambulatory peritoneal dialysis. Staphylococci did not survive in commercially available dialysis solutions but grew readily in peritoneal effluents obtained from patients after the dialysis dwell time. The number of CFU doubled 6 and 13 times in 24 h for S. epidermidis and S. aureus, respectively. E. coli grew well in both the pre- and postdialysis peritoneal fluid. Peritoneal macrophages as well as peripheral blood leukocytes inhibited bacterial growth in peritoneal dialysis fluid. However, 106 phagocytes per ml were minimally required to obtain a bacteriostatic effect. The addition of serum to peritoneal dialysis fluid increased the antibacterial activity of macrophages and blood leukocytes. The capacity of the aminoglycoside antibiotic tobramycin to reduce bacterial CFU in peritoneal dialysis fluid was only 10% of its bactericidal capacity in standard Mueller-Hinton broth. Peritoneal dialysis fluid had no effect on the antibacterial activity of imipenem.