AIMS--To evaluate the influence of interleukin-8 (IL-8) and other inflammatory cytokines (IL-6, IL-1 beta and tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha)) on the occurrence of peritonitis in patients receiving continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD). METHODS--The study population comprised 12 patients with peritonitis, 33 without peritonitis, all undergoing CAPD, and five patients undergoing peritoneal catheter implantation. Cytokine concentrations in dialysis fluid were determined by immunoassay and their values compared. RESULTS--Concentrations of both IL-8 (median 147 pg/ml, range 20-2273 pg/ml; n = 12) and IL-6 (median 1120 pg/ml, range 96-10,600 pg/ml) were substantially elevated, while the IL-1 beta concentration was lower and TNF alpha was not detectable in patients at diagnosis. The IL-6 concentration was also elevated in patients undergoing catheter implantation as well as in those with peritonitis. The IL-8 concentration, however, was elevated only upon infection. Intraperitoneal production of IL-8 was evident on determination of paired serum and dialysis fluid cytokine concentrations, and immunostaining of peritoneal cells with monoclonal anti-IL-8 antibody. CONCLUSIONS--These results suggest that determination of the IL-8 concentration in dialysis fluid maybe useful as a specific marker for following patients with peritonitis receiving CAPD.