BACKGROUND: There has recently been a growing interest in the use of the non-pathogenic yeast Saccharomyces boulardii, in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, including diarrhoea. The full effects of administration of the yeast are not fully understood. AIMS: To investigate the morphological effects of inoculated S boulardii on mouse intestinal villi, both in control animals and those treated with rotavirus. METHODS: Seven day old BALB/c seronegative mice were intubated with either rotavirus (30 microliters orally) or S boulardii (1.5 g/kg) or both rotavirus and S boulardii administered together. Control animals were given saline only. Animals were killed by decapitation 48 hours post-treatment. The middle region of the small intestine was studied using light microscopy and transmission and scanning electron microscopy, including backscattered electron imaging. RESULTS: Animals treated with rotavirus with or without S boulardii developed severe diarrhoea and showed morphological villous changes such as stromal separation and increased epithelial vacuolation. Specimens treated with S boulardii contained yeast particles within the mucosal tissues. CONCLUSION: The administration of S boulardii did not influence the changes produced by rotavirus, but yeast particles appeared to be taken up by the villous mucosa, with the predominant route apparently being uptake between adjacent epithelial cells.