The activity of roxithromycin against three clinical isolates of Mycobacterium avium was compared with that of clarithromycin both in a model of infection of human monocyte-derived macrophages and in a model of established infection of C57BL/6 mice. In the cell culture model, roxithromycin and clarithromycin were bactericidal for strains MO-1 and N-92159 and bacteriostatic for strain N-93043. For the three strains, the differences between the intracellular activities of roxithromycin and clarithromycin were not singificant after 7 days of treatment. Mice were infected with the MO-1 strain. Drugs were given by gavage at a dosage of 200 mg/kg of body weight 6 days per week for 16 weeks starting 5 weeks after infection. At the end of treatment, clarithromycin was more effective than roxithromycin in lungs; roxithromycin was as effective as clarithromycin in spleens. Thus, the activity of roxithromycin was comparable to that of clarithromycin both in vitro and in vivo.