Peripheral blood monocytes (PBM) may be activated in asthmatic patients, a condition usually reverted by corticosteroid (CS) treatment. In the present research we have evaluated the spontaneous or lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced production of interleukin 1 (IL-1) and tumour necrosis factor (TNF) by PBM obtained from 14 asthmatic subjects during an asthmatic attack and after 1 week of CS treatment. The control group included 20 healthy volunteers. PBM obtained during severe asthma showed a pattern of IL-1 and TNF secretion similar to that of normal subjects. After CS treatment, IL-1 levels did not change significantly in comparison to baseline values, while LPS-induced TNF production was apparently related to the degree of airway obstruction after CS treatment. In fact, TNF production by PBM from CS-responsive subjects was significantly decreased in comparison to the levels determined before CS treatment, while PBM from CS-resistant subjects produced the same cytokine levels regardless of CS treatment. The present study suggests that the determination of LPS-induced TNF secretion by PBM could be used to confirm the effectiveness of CS treatment in asthma.