Ascorbic acid plays a major role in pulmonary antioxidant defense. Sufficient amounts of ascorbic acid are necessary to maintain normal metabolic processes in the lung. We measured the levels of ascorbic, dehydroascorbic and diketogulonic acids in blood serum of patients with pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) and pneumonia. The serum levels of ascorbic acid were decreased in PTB and pneumonia, and those of dehydroascorbic acid were decreased in PTB, but not in pneumonia. The serum diketogulonic acid levels were not significantly changed in either PTB or pneumonia. The ratio of ascorbic to dehydroascorbic acid levels in serum were increased in PTB, but in pneumonia we observed a significant decrease in this index. The ratio of dehydroascorbic to diketogulonic acid in PTB was decreased, but in pneumonia this index did not significantly differ from the control value. Thus, in PTB the rate of ascorbic acid oxidation is decreased and the rate of dehydroascorbic acid oxidation is increased. By contrast, in pneumonia the rate of ascorbic acid oxidation is increased, but the rate of dehydroascorbic acid oxidation did not differ from control values.