The effects of sublethal concentrations of bismuth salts on bacterial invasion of mammalian cells were investigated. Pepto-Bismol, bismuth subsalicylate, and bismuth oxychloride, produced by interacting bismuth subsalicylate and simulated gastric juice, in suspension at concentrations as low as 1.4 mM significantly interfered with the invasion of RPMI-4788 cells by two different strains of Yersinia enterocolitica. Invasion of the mammalian epithelial cells by other enteric bacteria was also reduced significantly by some of these bismuth salts. Commercially obtained bismuth oxychloride, bismuth sulfide, and sodium salicylate had no affect on invasion by Y. enterocolitica. Exposure of Y. enterocolitica 8081c to Pepto-Bismol for as brief a time as 5 min was sufficient to produce the inhibitory effect. Removal of bismuth bound to bacteria by sodium potassium tartrate did not reverse the inhibition. Electron-dense deposits are observed in Y. enterocolitica 8081c exposed to bismuth subsalicylate, suggesting that interference of invasion may result from bismuth permeation of the bacterial cell wall.