Aerosolized ribavirin was evaluated in the treatment of respiratory syncytial virus lower respiratory tract disease in 53 infants, 36 of whom had underlying diseases. Of the total infants, 26 were studied in a double-blind, placebo-controlled manner; 14 received ribavirin and 12 received placebo, a water aerosol, for an average of five days. When the infants with bronchopulmonary dysplasia and congenital heart disease treated with ribavirin were compared with those receiving placebo, the treated infants showed a significantly faster rate of improvement in their illness severity score. The degree of improvement in the total group of infants receiving ribavirin compared with those receiving placebo was similarly greater, and at the end of therapy significantly greater improvement was also demonstrated in their arterial blood gas values and in the amount of virus shed from their nasal washes. No toxic or adverse effects of the aerosol therapy were observed in any of the 53 infants studied, and resistance to ribavirin did not develop in any of the respiratory syncytial virus strains isolated, despite prolonged treatment in some of the more ill infants.