Reactive oxygen intermediates (ROI) and cytokines, particularly tumor necrosis factor (TNF) have been implicated in the pathogenesis of influenza. Using a murine model of influenza, we have studied the levels of TNF, interleukin 6 (IL-6) and of superoxide-generating xanthine oxidase (XO). Mice infected intranasally with influenza virus APR/8 had high levels of XO, TNF and IL-6 in the broncoalveolar lavage, as early as 3 d after infection. XO was elevated also in serum and lung tissue. Administration of the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC,1 g/kg per day, orally) significantly decreased the mortality in infected mice, indicating a role for RO1 in the lethality associated with influenza infection.