Soluble intracellular adhesive molecule 1 (sICAM-1) and tumour necrosis factor receptors I (TNFR-1) and II (TNFR-II) have been shown to be associated with numerous liver disorders. Shedding of these membrane proteins can be triggered by the Th1 cytokines, TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma, which are associated with susceptibility or resistance to hepatic schistosomiasis, respectively. Further, TNF-alpha receptors and sICAM-1 have been implicated in periportal fibrosis in advanced human schistosomiasis mansoni and correlate with schistosome granuloma formation in the murine model. We measured serum levels of sICAM-1, TNFR-I and TNFR-II in Chinese patients with different clinically defined stages of schistosomiasis japonica and controls; these included 35 patients with acute schistosomiasis, 45 patients with chronic schistosome infections, 34 advanced patients with evidence of severe morbidity and 20 patients with no known history of exposure to infection. Markedly elevated levels of soluble TNFRs (sTNFRs) and sICAM-1 were observed in the acute and advanced patients compared with the chronic and control groups. Mean sTNFR-II levels were significantly higher in acute patients compared with advanced (P<0.00001) and chronic patients (P<0.00001) and showed the strongest association of the markers with acute disease (odds ratio (OR)=1.099). sTNFR-II and sICAM-1 levels both correlated with infection intensity and there were significant positive correlations observed between eosinophil count and infection intensity (P=0.0072) and sICAM-1 (P=0.0014). Although there were significantly higher levels of antigen-specific IgG4 and total IgG in infected individuals compared with controls, none correlated with infection intensity. Further, no differences in IgG4 and total IgG levels were observed between the acute and chronic groups. The results suggest sTNFRs and sICAM-1 are associated with liver inflammation and disease progression. Measurement of sTNFR-II and sICAM-1 levels in serum could serve as additional markers for the diagnosis of acute stage disease and the monitoring of hepatic inflammation in human schistosomiasis japonica.