Aminoglycosides are of limited clinical efficacy in gram-negative bacillary pneumonia, although they are commonly employed to treat this infection. This poor efficacy has been related in part to host factors (abnormalities in the lung, immunocompromise) and in part to pharmacologic factors. In particular, aminoglycoside levels in bronchial secretions are often borderline or inadequate in relation to the minimal inhibitory concentrations for most gram-negative strains. The low aminoglycoside concentrations result from poor penetrance into the respiratory tract or from local inactivation of these drugs, but basically reflect their low therapeutic-to-toxic ratio. The endotracheal injection of aminoglycosides resulted in high bactericidal activity within the bronchial lumen and in increased clinical efficacy, without increasing systemic toxicity. In view of the potential dangers of topical antibiotics, however, endotracheal treatment should be confined to selected patients.