Very little is known regarding the effects of the microgravity environment of space flight upon the action of antimicrobial agents on bacterial pathogens. This study was undertaken to develop a simple method for conducting antibacterial susceptibility tests during a space shuttle mission. Specially prepared susceptibility test research cards (bioMérieux Vitek, Hazelwood, Mo.) were designed to include 6 to 11 serial twofold dilutions of 14 antimicrobial agents, including penicillins, cephalosporins, a beta-lactamase inhibitor, vancomycin, erythromycin, tetracycline, gentamicin, ciprofloxacin, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole. MICs of the drugs were determined by visual reading of color end points in the Vitek research cards made possible by incorporation of a colorimetric growth indicator (alamarBlue; Accumed International, Westlake, Ohio). This study has demonstrated reproducible susceptibility results in the testing of isolates of Staphylococcus aureus, group A Streptococcus species, Enterococcus faecalis, Escherichia coli (beta-lactamase-positive and -negative strains), Klebsiella pneumoniae, Enterobacter cloacae, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. In some instances, the MICs were comparable to those determined by a standard broth microdilution method, while in some cases the unique test media and format yielded slightly different values that were themselves reproducible. The proposed in-flight experiment will include inoculation of the Vitek cards on the ground prior to launch of the space shuttle, storage of inoculated cards at refrigeration temperature aboard the space shuttle until experiment initiation, and then incubation of the cards for 18 to 48 h prior to visual interpretation of MICs by the mission's astronauts. Ground-based studies have shown reproducible MICs following storage of inoculated cards for 7 days at 4 to 8 degrees C to accommodate the mission's time schedule and the astronaut's activities. For comparison, ground-based control (normal gravity) MIC values will be generated by simultaneous inoculation and incubation of a second set of test cards in a laboratory at the launch site. This procedure can provide for a safe and compact experiment that should yield new information on the effects of microgravity on the biological activities of various classes of antibiotics.