Failure to eradicate mucoid forms of P. aeruginosa has implicated bacterial alginate in a local evasion of host defence mechanisms within the lung of Cystic Fibrosis (CF) patients. We have found that purified bacterial alginate scavenges free radicals released by triggered macrophages as detected by lucigenin amplified chemiluminescence (CL) and reduction of cytochrome c. In agreement with this, alginate was also able to scavenge radicals generated by a chemical system (hydrogen peroxide and copper; detected by benzoate hydroxylation and chemiluminescence), and by an enzymatic system (hypoxanthine and xanthine oxidase; detected by chemiluminescence). All inhibitions were dose-related. Oxygen consumption by neutrophils (unlike that of macrophages) could be detected in a Clark electrode, and was not reduced by alginate, confirming that scavenging of radicals was responsible for the earlier observations. These data suggest that bacterial alginate by scavenging free radicals, may favour the survival of mucoid forms of P. aeruginosa, particularly in the CF lung.