Short-term antibiotic treatment profoundly affects the intestinal microbiota, which may lead to sustained changes in microbiota composition. Probiotics may restore such a disturbance. The objective of the present study was to investigate the effect of a multispecies probiotic on the faecal microbiota during and after antibiotic intake in patients with a history of frequent antibiotic use. In this randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind study, thirty chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients treated with antibiotics for a respiratory tract infection received 5 g of a multispecies probiotic or placebo twice daily for 2 weeks. Faecal samples were collected at 0, 7, 14 and 63 d. Changes in the composition of the dominant faecal microbiota were determined by PCR-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). Changes in bacterial subgroups were determined by quantitative PCR and culture. Bowel movements were scored daily according to the Bristol stool form scale. During and after antibiotic treatment, DGGE-based similarity indices (SI) were high ( >/= 84 %) and band richness was relatively low, both remaining stable over time. No difference in SI was observed between patients with and without diarrhoea-like bowel movements. The multispecies probiotic had a modest effect on the bacterial subgroups. Nevertheless, it affected neither the composition of the dominant faecal microbiota nor the occurrence of diarrhoea-like bowel movements. The dominant faecal microbiota was not affected by antibiotics in this COPD population, suggesting an existing imbalance of the microbiota, which may also have contributed to the lack of effect by probiotic intake.