1. A new method has been developed for measuring the total antioxidant capacity of body fluids and drug solutions, based on the absorbance of the ABTS.+ radical cation. 2. An automated method for use on a centrifugal analyser, as well as a manual method, is described. 3. The procedure has been applied to physiological antioxidant compounds and radical-scavenging drugs, and an antioxidant ranking was established based on their reactivity relative to a 1.0 mmol/l Trolox standard. 4. The Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity of plasma from an adult reference population has been measured, and the method optimized and validated. 5. The method has been applied to investigate the total plasma antioxidant capacity of neonates and how this may be compromised in prematurity.