The in vitro susceptibilities of 34 to 73 clinical isolates of Clostridium difficile to 24 antimicrobial agents, including 18 beta-lactams, 4 fluoroquinolones, clindamycin, and metronidazole were examined. Metronidazole was the most active (MIC for 90% of the isolates [MIC90], 0.5 microgram/ml), followed by the carbapenems (Sch 34343, 4 micrograms/ml; imipenem, 8 micrograms/ml) and the antipseudomonas penicillins (piperacillin, 8 micrograms/ml; ticarcillin, 32 micrograms/ml; carbenicillin, 32 micrograms/ml). A monobactam (aztreonam) and most cephalosporins were either highly inactive (cefoxitin, cefuroxime, cefotiam, cefsulodin, ceftizoxime, cefbuperazone, and cefotaxime), with an MIC90 of greater than or equal to 128 micrograms/ml, or moderately inactive (ceftriaxone, cefmenoxime, cefoperazone, ceftazidime, and moxalactam), with an MIC90 of greater than or equal to 32 micrograms/ml. Clindamycin (MIC90, 32 micrograms/ml) and the fluoroquinolones (ciprofloxacin, 8 micrograms/ml; A-56619, 8 micrograms/ml; A-56620, 8 micrograms/ml; norfloxacin, 32 micrograms/ml) were only variably active. These in vitro data per se may not necessarily predict the relative risks for C. difficile-associated diarrhea or colitis during therapy with these agents. However, these data, in concert with knowledge of drug bioavailability in feces and the broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity on the resident bowel flora, may provide additional insight into the mechanisms and predictability of this complication with these agents. Careful monitoring for the emergence of C. difficile and fecal cytotoxin and for diarrhea during therapy with these agents is clearly indicated.