As Q fever is associated with an inflammatory syndrome, we determined circulating levels of inflammatory cytokines, cytokine antagonists, and activation markers of leucocytes in patients with acute Q fever and Q fever endocarditis. Tumour necrosis factor (TNF) and IL-6, but not IL-1beta, were markedly increased compared with controls. Cytokine antagonists and activation markers of leucocytes were profoundly different in acute and chronic Q fever. IL-1 receptor antagonist and TNF receptor type II were significantly increased in patients with acute Q fever, suggesting a shift of cytokine balance towards cytokine antagonists. The activation marker of B cells, sCD23, was significantly increased in Q fever endocarditis compared with controls and patients with acute Q fever. In a 2-year follow-up study of patients with Q fever endocarditis, sCD23 and specific IgG levels slowly decreased in patients whose symptoms resolved, but remained high in those who required prolonged treatment.