Candida albicans has been isolated with increasing frequency during intraabdominal infection; yet its role as a pathogen or copathogen remains controversial. A recent experimental study of its effect during polymicrobial peritonitis indicated that it did not enhance mortality when added to an Escherichia coli challenge, but that study used fecal or mucin-based adjuvants which are known to markedly potentiate the lethality of intraperitoneal bacteria. Therefore, we sought to examine the hypothesis that C. albicans and E. coli are synergistic copathogens that act in concert to increase mortality rates in experimental models of polymicrobial peritonitis, irrespective of the presence of growth adjuvant. To test this hypothesis, we assessed the mortality rates of previously healthy Swiss-Webster mice (20 g) that were challenged intraperitoneally (ip) with E. coli, C. albicans, or both, in either the presence or the absence of hemoglobin-mucin. In the absence of hemoglobin-mucin, E. coli plus C. albicans resulted in 83.3.% mortality (P < 0.02) compared to either E. coli (0%) or C. albicans (0%) alone. In the presence of hemoglobin-mucin, the synergistic effect was not observed, lower numbers of E. coli alone (62.5%), C. albicans alone (75%), or both organisms together (100%, P > 0.05) provoked high lethality. These data demonstrate that in the absence of adjuvant, E. coli plus C. albicans provoked synergistic lethality. However, in the presence of hemoglobin-mucin the synergistic effect was no longer observed. Therefore, this study provides support for the contention that C. albicans is capable of acting as a copathogen during experimental peritonitis, but that this effect may be obscured by the presence of an adjuvant substance that itself markedly potentiates microbial growth.