This study was undertaken to determine whether measurement of fecal lysozyme is helpful in determining disease activity in inflammatory bowel disease. In 112 patients with Crohn's disease, 46 patients with ulcerative colitis, and 40 controls, fecal lysozyme concentration was measured. Results were correlated with CDAI and AI in Crohn's disease and with Truelove and Witts' grading in ulcerative colitis. Fecal lysozyme concentration (mean +/- SEM) was significantly (P < 0.001) higher in Crohn's disease (75 +/- 14 microg/g) and ulcerative colitis (238 +/- 33 microg/g) than in controls (6 +/- 1 microg/g). There was only a weak correlation between fecal lysozyme concentration and CDAI (r = 0.32; P = 0.001) and AI (r = 0.38; P < 0.0005) in patients with Crohn's disease and with Truelove and Witts' grading (r = 0.47; P = 0.001) in ulcerative colitis. When CDAI > or = 150 or AI > or = 100 were used as the standard for active disease, fecal lysozyme concentration was elevated in 78% of patients with active colonic Crohn's disease. In ulcerative colitis fecal lysozyme concentration was increased in active disease (95% in grade II and 94% in grade III) as compared 33% in grade I. Measurement of fecal lysozyme is of little help in diagnosing and determining disease activity of inflammatory bowel disease as whole, but it may be of help for diagnosis and assessment of activity of colonic IBD.