Verotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) cause hemorrhagic colitis (HC) and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The aim of this study was to compare the circulating levels of transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF-beta1), T helper (T(H))1 (interferon [IFN]-gamma, interleukin [IL]-2), and T(H)2-associated lymphokines (IL-4, IL-13) in children with uncomplicated Escherichia coli O157:H7 HC and patients who developed HUS. Circulating levels of IL-2, IL-4, and IL-13 were undetectable, and those of IFN-gamma were low and comparable among groups. Concentrations of TGF-beta1 were higher in children with uncomplicated O157:H7 HC than among those who developed HUS (934 +/- 680 versus 514 +/- 497 pg/mL, respectively; P < 0.04). The circulating levels of TGF-beta1 were also higher among children who did not take antidiarrheal agents (P < 0.008) and those who have been immediately discharged from the emergency room (P < 0.03). Our results did not show an imbalanced T(H)1/T(H)2-associated lymphokine response during the development of HUS. Increased circulating levels of TGF-beta1 in children with milder O157:H7 or uncomplicated HC most likely reflect appropriate intestinal tissue repair mechanisms rather than a remote systemic endocrine effect on the kidneys.