Recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO) was administered subcutaneously three times a week to 18 infants with the anaemia of prematurity at doses of 75, 150, 300, or 600 units/kg per week for 4 weeks, starting at 3-4 weeks of postnatal age. A significant and dose-dependent increase in reticulocyte count was observed from a mean baseline value of 71 x 10(9)/l to 200 x 10(9)/l after 3 weeks of therapy, compared with a change from 69 to 97 x 10(9)/l in 66 historical controls. The haematocrit value remained unchanged during rHuEPO treatment, whereas it steadily declined until 9 weeks of postnatal age in the controls. These effects were accompanied by a marked reduction in serum iron concentration and transferrin saturation in patients receiving standard-dose iron supplements, but not in those given larger doses. Only 3 of 18 patients required a red blood cell transfusion. These infants were among the most anaemic at entry into the study and 2 of them were unable to complete rHuEPO therapy, while the third developed iron deficiency anaemia. These data indicate that rHuEPO with appropriate iron supplementation may accelerate the recovery from anaemia of prematurity. Larger scale placebo-controlled studies are now needed to confirm these findings and verify their impact on transfusion requirements of premature infants.