Although there are reports of cases of acute renal failure occurring in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients, usually in association with the use of nephrotoxic antibiotic therapy, there have been no studies of renal function in this patient group. We hypothesized that long-term use of intravenous (IV) nephrotoxic antibiotics (aminoglycosides and colistin sulphomethate) may contribute to renal disease in CF patients. In a prospective study, we assessed creatinine clearance as an index of renal function with two techniques (24-hr urine collections and the Cockroft-Gault formula) in a group of 80 stable adult CF outpatients chronically infected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa but with no history of preceding renal disease. Using a multiple linear regression model, we evaluated their renal function in terms of their lifetime IV use of aminoglycosides and colistin. Between 31% (Cockroft-Gault formula method) and 42% (24-hr urine collection method) of patients had a creatinine clearance below normal range. Using either method, there was a strong correlation between aminoglycoside use and diminishing renal function (r=- 0.32, P=0.0055), which was potentiated by the coadministration of colistin (r=- 0.42, P <0.0002). However, there was no correlation with colistin when used in combination with other antibiotics alone (r=0.18, P=NS). Repeated IV aminoglycoside use in CF is associated with long-term renal damage. Although this effect is potentiated by colistin, colistin on its own in moderate doses does not appear to be nephrotoxic. IV aminoglycosides should be used cautiously in CF patients, with regular monitoring of renal function.