Interleukin-8 (IL-8) and nitric oxide (NO) may be important mediators in the pathogenesis of chronic idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease (CIIBD), but their roles in disease activity in ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn's disease (CD) are uncertain. The aim of this study was to measure mRNA for IL-8 and inducible NO synthase (iNOS) in small mucosal biopsies from untreated patients at first presentation and to relate these measurements to the histological levels of polymorph infiltration graded on a ten-point scale. For this purpose, a sensitive enzyme-linked oligonucleotide chemiluminescent assay (ELOCA) was developed to quantitate reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) products amplified from RNA from paired biopsy samples. The levels of IL-8 and iNOS mRNAs were calculated as ratios of the RT-PCR products to glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) RT-PCR product. In UC patients, median values of IL-8/GAPDH and iNOS/GAPDH were significantly elevated compared with controls and CD. However, in both UC and CD, the IL-8/GAPDH and iNOS/GAPDH ratios correlated significantly with polymorph infiltration. ELOCA enabled quantitation of multiple mRNAs in small mucosal biopsies from untreated patients with CIIBD and supported a role for IL-8 and iNOS in acute inflammation in both UC and CD.