Magnetic resonance imaging of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients often shows active inflammatory lesions despite clinical remission. No immunological marker of disease activity has been identified in these patients. Concentrations of neopterin, interleukin-2 (IL-2), soluble interleukin-2 receptor (sIL-2R) and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) were measured in the serum and cerebrospinal fluid of 19 clinically-inactive MS patients and compared with those of 19 non-inflammatory controls. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) neopterin concentrations were significantly higher in the MS group than in controls (mean 9.1 mM vs 3.4 nM, P < 0.01) and 10 of 19 MS patients had levels above the control range. This finding provides evidence of ongoing T-cell-directed and interferon-gamma-mediated macrophage activation in the central nervous system. Analysis of IL-2, sIL-2R and TNF-alpha concentrations revealed no significant differences between MS patients and controls. We conclude that CSF neopterin concentration may correlate with disease activity in asymptomatic patients.