Studies of antimycotic host defenses have been limited by the paucity of rapid, reproducible quantitative assays for fungal cell damage. Prior studies defined a colorimetric method that uses MTT, a tetrazolium dye, to quantify polymorphonuclear leukocyte (PMNL)-mediated damage to fungi. These relatively simple, rapid, and reproducible assays require cumbersome extraction of precipitated MTT-formazan and high cell densities to overcome relatively low sensitivity. In experiments that compared assays with MTT and another tetrazolium dye, 2,3-bis-(2-methoxy-4-nitro-5-sulphenyl)-(2H)-tetrazolium-5-+ ++carboxanilide (XTT), estimates of damage to Aspergillus fumigatus hyphae by human PMNL were similar with both dyes. However, XTT reduction was more rapid and sensitive, yielding accurate results with fewer organisms and PMNL. The water-soluble XTT-formazan product also simplified measurements by eliminating the need for solvent-extraction steps that are obligatory in MTT assays. Thus, XTT is advantageous for quantitative assessment of fungal cell damage, although MTT remains useful for assessing fungal cell viability by direct microscopic visualization of precipitated formazan.