Cysteinyl leukotrienes (cys-LTs; LTC4, LTD4, and LTE4) are generated predominantly by mast cells and eosinophils and induce airway smooth muscle contraction, microvascular leakage, and mucous hypersecretion whereas leukotriene B4 (LTB4) is a potent chemoattractant of neutrophils. We measured cys-LTs and LTB4 in exhaled breath condensate from children aged 7-14 years including healthy nonatopic children (n = 11) and children with mild intermittent asthma (steroid naive, n = 11), mild persistent asthma (low-dose inhaled steroid treatment, n = 13), or moderate to severe persistent asthma (high-dose inhaled steroid treatment, n = 13). Exhaled LTB4 levels were increased in patients with mild and moderate to severe persistent asthma compared with patients with mild intermittent asthma (126.0 +/- 8.8 and 131.9 +/- 7.1 versus 52.7 +/- 3.8 pg/ml, p < 0.001 and p < 0.0001) and normal subjects (126.0 +/- 8.8 and 131.9 +/- 7.1 versus 47.9 +/- 4.1 pg/ml, p < 0.0001). Elevated exhaled cys-LT levels were found in patients with mild and moderate to severe persistent asthma compared with normal subjects (27.9 +/- 2.8 and 31.5 +/- 4.5 versus 18.5 +/- 0.5 pg/ml, p < 0.01 and p < 0.05). There was an inverse correlation between exhaled cys-LTs and LTB4 in patients with mild persistent asthma. We conclude that exhaled cys-LTs and LTB4 may be noninvasive markers of airway inflammation in pediatric asthma.