The recently developed gamma-interferon (IFN-gamma) assay system for the diagnosis of bovine tuberculosis in cattle has been accredited by the Standing Committee on Agriculture for use in Australia. In this test system, whole blood is incubated with tuberculin purified protein derivative (PPD) antigens for 16 to 24 h. The plasma is then collected and assayed for IFN-gamma production using an enzyme immunoassay (EIA). The assay system has proven to be a rapid, sensitive and inexpensive method for measuring antigen specific cell-mediated reactivity when compared with the more traditional lymphocyte proliferation assay. The IFN-gamma assay is the first in-vitro cellular assay to be used as a routine diagnostic test in veterinary medicine. While the IFN-gamma EIA has been optimised, several conditions affecting the production of IFN-gamma in whole blood culture needed investigation. We determined that optimal IFN-gamma production required the use of heparinised blood, cultured with 20 micrograms/ml of PPD within 8 h of collection. The use of blood collected post mortem resulted in reduced sensitivity for the assay. The kinetics of IFN-gamma release were established as were the effects of intradermal tuberculin testing on the IFN-gamma assay.