BACKGROUND: Diarrhea is the most frequently reported adverse event in mycophenolate mofetil (MMF)-treated transplant patients. The aim of this study was to explore the gastrointestinal tract in MMF-treated renal transplant recipients with persistent afebrile diarrhea to characterize its nature and etiology. METHODS: Renal transplant recipients with persistent afebrile diarrhea (daily fecal output >200 g) were prospectively investigated for infections, morphologic, and functional (gastrointestinal motility and intestinal absorptive capacity) integrity of the gastrointestinal tract; 26 patients met the inclusion criteria. RESULTS: All but one patient had an erosive enterocolitis. Seventy percent of the patients had malabsorption of nutrients, contributing to the diarrhea. In +/-60%, an infectious origin was demonstrated and successfully treated with antimicrobial agents without changes in immunosuppressive regimen. In +/-40%, no infection occurred, but a Crohn's disease-like pattern of inflammation was noted. These patients also had a less pronounced bile-acid malabsorption but a significant faster colonic transit time, correlating with the trough level of mycophenolic acid (MPA). Cessation of MMF, however, was associated with allograft rejection in one third of these patients. CONCLUSIONS: Persistent afebrile diarrhea in renal transplant recipients is characterized by erosive enterocolitis, which is of infectious origin in +/-60%. In +/-40%, a Crohn's disease-like (entero-)colitis was present. Because reduction or cessation of MMF was the only effective therapy, MPA or one of its metabolites may be suggested as a possible cause. However, reduction or cessation of MMF was associated with an increased risk for rejection.