Sera from 42 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and 40 healthy controls (HC) were examined for cytokine autoantibodies (CK-aAb) by accurate and sensitive radioimmunoassays. The prevalences of detectable CK-aAb in RA (HC) were: aAb-IL-1 alpha = 36% (38%); aAb-IL-6 = 29% (13%), p = 0.06; aAb-IL-8 = 0% (0%); aAb-IFN alpha = 12% (3%), p = 0.11. The levels of the individual CK-aAb did not correlate, and there were no correlations between CK-aAb levels and clinical or laboratory variables. CK-aAb levels remained constant in 8 RA patients tested over a period of 6 months. With regard to alterations in aAb-IL-1 alpha levels, 4/11 HC were consistently positive over 18-36 months; 2/11 converted and became highly positive. The levels of aAb-IFN alpha and aAb-IL-6, but not aAb-IL-1 alpha, tended to be increased in RA patients; aAb-IL-8 were undetectable in both RA and HC.