The aim of the present study was to investigate the efficacy of treatment with a combination of fluconazole and human recombinant interleukin-1 alpha (IL-1 alpha) in normal or neutropenic mice with systemic Candida albicans infection. Six hours after intravenous injection of 5 x 10(4) CFU of C. albicans organisms, oral treatment twice daily with 2.5 or 10 mg of fluconazole per kg of body weight, a single intraperitoneal injection of 80 ng of IL-1, or a combination of the two was started. IL-1 had no influence on the antifungal activity of fluconazole in vitro or on the pharmacokinetics of fluconazole. For both normal and neutropenic mice, the number of C. albicans organisms cultured from the kidneys after 36 h of treatment was significantly lower in mice treated with IL-1 alone than in untreated animals. Treatment with fluconazole alone also significantly lowered the number of C. albicans organisms in the kidneys compared with that in untreated controls. In normal mice, the combination of fluconazole and IL-1 was not better than fluconazole alone. In neutropenic mice, combined treatment with IL-1 and 10 mg of fluconazole per kg led to significantly lower numbers of C. albicans organisms in the kidneys and the spleen than treatment with either agent alone. Although the precise mechanism by which IL-1 enhances resistance to infection is not clear, the additive effect of IL-1 and fluconazole in vivo indicates that combined therapy with immunomodulators and antifungal drugs is beneficial in immunocompromised mice with systemic fungal infections.