Idiopathic CD4 T lymphocytopenia (ICL) is an unusual immune defect in which there is an unexplained deficit of CD4 T cells, leading to fungal, parasitic or other serious opportunistic infections. Current treatment efforts are directed at eliminating infections. Here we describe the use of a novel treatment, subcutaneous polyethylene glycol (PEG)-IL-2 injections, in a woman with this disorder, who had chronic severe mycobacterial disease which led to repeated hospitalizations, and advancing respiratory insufficiency. For this patient, PEG-IL-2, 50 000 U/m2, has been given by weekly subcutaneous injections for 5·5 years. This treatment has resulted in marked (and still continuing) long-term immunological improvement with normalized T cell functions and increased CD4 cell numbers. She has had substantial clinical improvement with clearing of mycobacterial disease, reducing hospitalizations and improved lung functions. The improvement seen in this patient suggests that low-dose IL-2 is a safe and practical therapy, which might be useful in other subjects with this potentially serious immune defect.