Spontaneously occurring variants of the D.N.A. content of mitochondria may be responsible for human disease. Among the prime candidates for such a mitochondrial aetiology are certain drug-induced blood dyscrasias, particularly that due to chloramphenicol. Because mitochondria are generally inherited from the female parent, such disorders should be clustered among matroclinally related individuals. The clinical manifestations of such diseases are a function of the manner in which mitochondria are allocated to somatic cells and tissues during development.