In previous papers (Y. Ikeda and T. Nishino, Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 32:1073-1077, 1988; Y. Ikeda, T. Nishino, and T. Tanino, Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 31:865-869, 1987), we reported that many of the 7-aminothiazolyl cephalosporins, such as cefmenoxime, showed paradoxically reduced activity against Proteus vulgaris at higher concentrations, whereas these paradoxical effects were not observed for other types of cephalosporins, such as cefbuperazone and cefoperazone. In this study, we compare the therapeutic effect of cefmenoxime with that of cefbuperazone and explore the in vivo paradoxical effect of cefmenoxime by using an experimental infection model in mice. In an intraperitoneal infection with P. vulgaris 11, the survival rate with cefmenoxime was increased to 43% at 3.13 mg/kg but was lower at higher doses. On the other hand, cefbuperazone did not show such a paradoxical therapeutic effect. In mice infected with P. vulgaris 11, cefmenoxime levels in both serum and peritoneal washings were rapidly reduced and beta-lactamase activities in the peritoneal cavity were increased at higher cefmenoxime doses. These findings suggested that high levels of cefmenoxime at the infection site induced increased production of beta-lactamase, which then rapidly inactivated the antibiotic. We conclude that the paradoxical therapeutic effect of cefmenoxime against P. vulgaris occurs by the same mechanisms as the in vitro effect and that the high beta-lactamase inducibility and low beta-lactamase stability may account for the paradoxical therapeutic effect of cefmenoxime against P. vulgaris.