We assayed IL-6 in 105 cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples from patients with ALS, MS, HTLV-1 associated myelopathy (HAM), and controls. There was considerable overlap in IL-6 levels in all patient groups. The mean IL-6 in 27 patients with ALS was significantly higher than in 21 patients in the other neurological disease (OND) group (P=0.0075). There were no significant differences in MS or HAM and the OND control group. Overall, CSF IL-6 correlated with protein concentration but not with percentage IgG or IgG-albumin index. Patients with CSF oligoclonal bands were no more likely to have detectable IL-6 than patients without oligoclonal bands. Similarly, IL-6 did not correlate with clinical disease activity in MS when subgroups of patients were compared or when an individual patient was followed over time. The elevated IL-6 in ALS may reflect an ongoing humoral immune response, or IL-6 may be non-specifically expressed in these patients as a putative neurotrophic factor in response to nerve cell degeneration.