The purpose of this study was to clarify the association between the oral infectivity of a bacterial strain and its susceptibility to ingestion by mononuclear phagocytes or ability to survive within them. Ten bacterial strains tested - all of known oral infectivity - comprised Salmonella typhimurium, Listeria monocytogenes (three strains), Escherichia coli (two strains), Proteus mirabilis, Enterococcus faecalis, Bacteroides fragilis, and a Bacteroides sp. The phagocytic uptake of each strain was measured as the bacteria to phagocyte ratio after mononuclear phagocytes in mouse peritoneal exudate were permitted to ingest bacteria in vivo for 3 min. The three Listeria strains were the most susceptible to phagocytic uptake and the Salmonella strain was relatively resistant. The intracellular survival of each strain was studied during a subsequent 2 h in-vitro incubation of the mononuclear phagocytes that had been permitted to ingest bacteria in vivo. The strains with the best intracellular survival were Ent. faecalis and two of the three Listeria strains. The ability of S. typhimurium to survive intracellularly was intermediate but better than that of the two E. coli strains. Oral infectivity was not consistently correlated with susceptibility to ingestion by mononuclear phagocytes or ability to survive within them.