The diagnosis of ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is difficult for several reasons. Firstly, clinical markers show a large percentage of false-positive and false-negative results. Secondly, microbiological diagnosis based on quantitative cultures of protected specimen brush (PSB), bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), and endotracheal aspirates also present false-positive and false-negative results. Furthermore, definite results are delayed for 48-72 hours. For all these reasons it would be an advantage to have a biological marker of ventilator-associated pneumonia in clinical practice. Since clinical features of pneumonia in mechanically ventilated patients are neither specific nor sensitive, rapid markers of pneumonia might be of great assistance to the clinician in deciding whether to start an empiric antibiotic regimen. A marker of ventilator-associated pneumonia could be a rapid alternative diagnostic method which permits the definite diagnosis of pneumonia. Accordingly, specific markers of VAP, namely the presence of intracellular microorganisms, the detection of elastin fibres, the antibody-coated bacteria test, the level of endotoxin in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, the local production of interleukin-8, the levels of lactate dehydrogenase, and decreased surfactant protein A, may be important as they can provide a rapid diagnosis of VAP. Among the markers alluded to above, the search for intracellular bacteria in polymorphonuclear leukocytes or macrophages is the most widely validated technique with an excellent specificity, provided that prior antibiotics are not given. However, this technique has its own limitations; it requires a considerable time effort for the microbiologist, and also compels the performance of BAL, a technique not always harmless to the patient.