Despite the emergence of newer antibiotic treatments, group B streptococcal infection still carries a high mortality rate in the newborn and is characterized by reduced neutrophil proliferative pools, neutrophil storage pools, neutropenia, and polymorphonuclear cell dysfunction. Recombinant human granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (rhG-CSF) has recently been demonstrated to induce neutrophilia and modulate neutrophil proliferative pools and neutrophil storage pools in the newborn rat. We therefore investigated the adjuvant effect of rhG-CSF given to group B streptococcus (GBS) septic Sprague-Dawley newborn (less than 36 h) rats treated with and without antibiotic therapy. After inoculation of GBS, a GBS survival curve established the LD50 at 50 h to be approximately 3 X 10(6) organisms/gm. Newborn rats were divided into four treatment groups after GBS inoculation. rhG-CSF was administered at the same time as GBS inoculation. At 24 h, there was approximately 100% survival in all groups. However, by 72 h after GBS inoculation, there was a significant difference in survival. Group 1, PBS/Alb, had a survival rate of 4%; group 2, rhG-CSF, 9%; group 3, antibiotics, 28%; and group 4, antibiotics plus rhG-CSF, 91% (p less than or equal to 0.001). Additionally, when rhG-CSF was administered prophylactically (6 h before GBS), a similar significant synergistic effect in survival was demonstrated with granulocyte colony stimulating factor plus antibiotics versus antibiotics alone (70 versus 10%) (p less than or equal to 0.01). These preliminary data suggest that either simultaneous or prophylactic pulse administration of rhG-CSF may have a synergistic and protective effect on survival in antibiotic-treated experimental GBS in the neonatal rat.