Abstract Acute fatty liver of pregnancy (AFLP) and the childhood encephalopathy known as Reye’s syndrome are both characterised by microvesicular steatosis. Mothers with AFLP are frequently heterozygous for a mutation which reduces the activity of the trifunctional protein (TP) of fatty-acid oxidation. Several lines of evidence suggest that blockade of fatty-acid oxidation may also be the underlying cause of Reye’s syndrome, and epidemiological studies have identified aspirin taken during a viral illness as a contributing factor to the development of the disease. The hypotheses are presented: • that children with Reye’s syndrome may also be heterozygous for TP mutation, and • that inhibition of the residual long-chain fatty-acid oxidation by NSAIDs including aspirin precipitates the similar symptoms observed in patients with Reye’s syndrome and AFLP. Identification of NSAIDs as candidates for the unidentified factor which precipitates AFLP suggests that avoidance of NSAIDs during pregnancy may lead to a reduction in the incidence of this life-threatening disease.