Cystic fibrosis (CF) patients often present with malnutrition which may partly be due to increased resting energy expenditure (REE) secondary to inflammation. Both REE and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), as other markers of inflammation, are elevated during respiratory exacerbations and decrease after antibiotic treatment. However, the effect of antibiotic therapy on REE and inflammation in patients without respiratory exacerbation is not known. The aim of our study was to determine the effect of such an elective antibiotic therapy on REE, TNF-alpha, and other serum markers of inflammation. Twelve CF patients 5F/7M, age 15.9 +/- 6.1 years, weight for height ratio 89 +/- 8% without clinically obvious exacerbation and treated by intravenous antibiotics were studied. Both before (D0) and after (D14) treatment, pulmonary function tests were performed. REE was measured by indirect calorimetry and blood taken to measure inflammation parameters. Body weight increased by 1.1 kg from D0 to D14 (P < 0.001), composed of 0.3 kg fat mass and 0.8 kg fat-free mass (FFM). The forced expiratory volume at 1 s increased from 43 +/- 15% of predicted at D0 to 51 +/- 15% of predicted at D14 (P < 0.01). Mean REE was 41.1 +/- 7.6 kcal/kg FFM per day at D0 and did not change significantly at D14 (40.6 +/- 8.5 kcal/kg FFM per day). Serum markers of inflammation decreased from D0 to D14: C-reactive protein 17 +/- 17 mg/l to 4 +/- 7 mg/l (P < 0.05), elastase 62 +/- 29 microg/l to 45 +/- 18 microg/l (P < 0.02), orosomucoid acid 1.25 +/- 0.11 g/l to 0.80 +/- 0.15 g/l (P < 0.001), and TNF-alpha 37 +/- 14 pg/ml to 29 +/- 6 pg/ml (P = 0.05). Individual values showed a correlation between changes in REE and in TNF-alpha (P < 0.02). The contribution of inflammation to energy expenditure is possible but appears to be minimal in cystic fibrosis patients treated by antibiotics on a regular basis in the absence of clinically obvious exacerbation.