The effect of a single dose of ceftazidime on circulating concentrations of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) in a rat model of sepsis was studied. IL-6 concentrations were significantly elevated (100 to 200 times the baseline) 6 h after ceftazidime administration in both septic and nonseptic (control) rats. TNF-alpha concentrations increased significantly in nonseptic (approximately 40 times the baseline) rats but not septic (approximately 2 to 3 times the baseline) rats. Ceftazidime administration was not associated with an increase in endotoxin concentrations. These findings suggest that ceftazidime modulation of proinflammatory cytokine concentrations may be independent of its antimicrobial properties.