Reactive hemophagocytic syndrome is a clinico-pathologic entity characterized by systemic proliferation of non-neoplastic histiocytes showing phagocytosis of hemopoietic cells, resulting in blood cytopenia. It is best known to be associated with virus infection, but other associated diseases have also been implicated. The clinical and pathological findings of 7 fatal cases are described. The syndrome affected both sexes of a wide age range, and all patients had fever. Significant laboratory findings were blood cytopenia, abrupt drop in the blood cell counts, deranged liver function tests and abnormal coagulation profile. The associated diseases were diverse: two patients had bacterial infection; two had peripheral T-cell lymphoma; one had disseminated undifferentiated carcinoma of the ovary; one had both tuberculosis and disseminated nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and one had no obvious underlying disease. It is postulated that lymphokines secreted by lymphoid cells or tumor cells may be responsible for the systemic activation of histiocytes. The differential diagnosis from malignant histiocytosis is discussed.