1. Helicobacter pylori infection is characterized by an infiltration of neutrophils in the gastric mucosa. Neutrophil activation is an important source of reactive oxygen radicals, which cause tissue damage. Studies have shown that in Helicobacter pylori-infected patients there is increased mucosal production of interleukin 8. However, the role of interleukin 8 in the Helicobacter pylori-related inflammatory process and its relationship with reactive oxygen radicals remains to be clarified. The aims of this study were to investigate if there is any association between antral mucosal levels of interleukin 8 and reactive oxygen radicals and their relationship to gastric antral inflammation. 2. Fifty-two patients referred for endoscopy were recruited into the study. Gastric antral biopsies were taken for histology, culture and measurement of interleukin 8 and chemiluminescence (measuring reactive oxygen radicals). Interleukin 8 was measured by ELISA and the result expressed as pg/mg biopsy. Luminol-enhanced chemiluminescence was measured as mV min-1 mg-1 biopsy. Antral inflammation was assessed by a pathologist in a blinded fashion. 3. Antral mucosal levels of interleukin 8 and reactive oxygen radicals were significantly higher in Helicobacter pylori-colonized mucosa than in Helicobacter pylori-negative mucosa. After the eradication of Helicobacter pylori in patients with duodenal ulcer the median values (ranges) of interleukin 8 and reactive oxygen radicals fell from 1.21 (0.10-2.40) to 0.65 (0.00-1.60) and from 110.0 (10.0-959.0) to 14.5 (0.0-85.0) respectively. There was a positive correlation between interleukin 8 concentration and chemiluminescence response in the antral mucosa (r = 0.72). A higher interleukin 8 concentration was associated with greater neutrophil infiltration (r = 0.72) and mononuclear cell infiltration (r = 0.55); the magnitude of the chemiluminescence response was also positively associated with neutrophil (r = 0.77) and mononuclear cell infiltration (r = 0.59). 4. Interleukin 8 concentration is associated with an infiltration of neutrophils and mononuclear cells and is correlated with the production of reactive oxygen radicals in antral gastric mucosa infected with Helicobacter pylori. These findings suggest that interleukin 8 may be important in attracting and activating phagocytes to release reactive oxygen radicals, thereby causing mucosal damage.