Six normal adult volunteers were administered 15 mg/kg of ethambutol (EMB) by a constant-rate 1-hr infusion. Plasma and urine samples were collected up to 24 and 72 hr, respectively. Peak plasma levels following the 1-hr infusion ranged from 11.6 to 15.4 microgram/ml. Subsequent postinfusion EMB levels exhibited multiphasic decay. In the 12-hr period following infusion, EMB levels showed biexponential decay. However, 24-hr plasma levels in all subjects were observed to be higher than those predicted using a two-compartment body model. The alpha phase in these subjects had a mean half-life of 8.6 min while the half-life of the beta phase ranged from 2.5 to 3.6 hr (mean 3.1). The half-life of the gamma phase estimated from plasma data points between 12 and 24 hr averaged 1.2 +/- 3.6 hr. A terminal gamma t1/2 of 15.4 +/- 1.7 hr was calculated from 12-72 hr urine data. The mean value for the steady-state volume of distribution using a noncompartmental method was 3.89 liters/kg. Plasma EMB clearance ranged from 7.47 to 8.87 ml/min/kg (mean 8.57). The fraction of the dose eliminated unchanged varied from 0.75 to 0.84 (mean 0.79). Renal clearance ranged from 5.93 to 8.45 ml/min/kg (mean 6.81), indicating active tubular secretion.