The immunopathology in primary Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infections and in chronic fatigue syndrome was studied by examining serum levels of interleukins (IL) and of soluble T cell receptors in serum samples. Serum samples were from patients during and 6 months after primary EBV-induced infectious mononucleosis and from patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and serologic evidence of EBV reactivation. Markers for T lymphocyte activation (soluble IL-2 and CD8) and for monocyte activation (neopterin) were significantly elevated during acute infectious mononucleosis but not in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Interferon-alpha, IL-1 beta, and IL-6 levels were not significantly increased in any patient group but inferferon-gamma levels were significantly increased during the acute phase of infectious mononucleosis. The levels of IL-1 alpha were significantly higher than in controls both in patients with infectious mononucleosis and in those with chronic fatigue syndrome. In the latter, the lack of most markers for lymphocyte activation found in patients with infectious mononucleosis makes it less likely that EBV reactivation causes symptoms.