The concentrations of tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin-6 (IL-6) and IL-1-beta in tissue homogenates of gastric mucosal biopsy specimens, and in gastric juice samples from Helicobacter pylori-positive and -negative children, were determined. The study population comprised 30 children with recurrent abdominal pain attending upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. Of these patients 18 were infected with H. pylori. Cytokine concentrations in gastric biopsy homogenate supernatants and in gastric juice were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). TNF-alpha levels in gastric juice and in gastric biopsy homogenate supernatants in patients with H. pylori-positive gastritis were found to be significantly higher than those in children without H. pylori infection. IL-6 levels were also higher in H. pylori-infected subjects, but the difference in IL-6 concentrations measured in gastric juice and biopsy homogenate supernatants did not reach statistical significance. IL-1-beta concentrations in both specimens showed no significant difference between the two groups of children. It was suggested that increased levels of inflammatory cytokines, especially TNF-alpha and IL-6 generated locally within the gastric mucosa might be implicated in the pathogenesis of H. pylori-associated gastritis in childhood.