An International Study Group on New Antimicrobial Strategies (ISGNAS) has been formed in response to the recognition that development of microbial resistance to antibiotics is becoming a serious, world-wide problem. The group met in 1993 for the first time to discuss the feasibility of developing rational alternatives to the use of antibiotics and prepared, as a result, a comprehensive overview of normal (physiological) mechanisms involved in the control of potentially pathogenic (opportunistic) microorganisms. One objective of ISGNAS is to understand the conditions which allow opportunistic microbes present among the symbionts to cause an infection. There is a need for more coherent information concerning the habitat, growth requirements and host and pathogen properties which allow opportunistic pathogens to cause life-threatening infections. In particular, information is urgently being sought to understand the complexity of the interactions between the vast number of microbial species, and the interactions between the microbes and their host. Another goal is to inspire and enable basic and clinical research that will lead to the development of new therapies for regulating colonization, translocation and infection by opportunistic micro-organisms in patients during periods of decreased resistance. With a sufficient amount of knowledge of how healthy individuals keep opportunistic micro-organisms under control, it may become feasible for physicians to maintain host resistance and inter-microbial factors involved in the containment of opportunistic microbes. Therapies aimed at boostering natural resistance mechanisms will be of critical importance to individuals whose resistance has been compromised as a result of another clinical condition.