A controlled study of the efficacy of cytosine arabinoside in the treatment of patients with variola major was performed. Cytosine aravinoside was given intravenously at a dose approximating 3 mg/kg of body weight every 24 hr for up to seven days. All nine patients receiving cytosine arabinoside and four of the 11 patients receiving placebo died. In three of the patients receiving cytosine aravinoside, death occurred late in the illness at a time when the patient's lesions began to dry up, the patient's temperature became normal, and the patient's general condition appeared to improve. The virus could be isolated from the blood at day 7 from three of four patients treated with cytosine arabinoside as compared with zero of six control patients. Hematologic data showed a depression in the number of circulating granulocytes. It is possible that the drug lowered the resistance to infection either through direct suppression of granulocytes or through interference with other immune mechanisms. Cytosine arabinside administered in the doses used in this study is not effective in the treatment of variola major.