We studied sputum tobramycin concentrations after intravenous administration in 10 cystic fibrosis patients. Tobramycin concentrations were determined by a bioassay and a radioenzymatic assay (REA). The bacterial density of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in sputum was examined serially during therapy. Bioactivity of tobramycin in the sputum was low and increased little during treatment. In contrast, tobramycin content (as assayed by REA) showed a progressive accumulation of the drug to high concentrations: a mean of 82 micrograms/g sputum after 3 wk of therapy in 4 patients. Pseudomonas aeruginosa was eradicated from the sputum in 3 of 4 patients receiving antibiotic therapy for 3 wk. Eradication correlated with tobramycin sputum concentrations measured by REA, which were 20-fold greater than the apparent tobramycin inhibitory concentration. A bactericidal effect of aminoglycosides in the presence of sputum in vitro could only be reliably produced with concentrations 25-fold the MIC. We conclude that tobramycin penetrates cystic fibrosis (CF) sputum and accumulates over time. Although CF sputum antagonized the bioactivity of aminoglycosides, 3 wk of intravenous therapy combined with an antipseudomonal beta-lactam antibiotic may be effective in eradication of P. aeruginosa from sputum of certain CF patients.