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The difference in severity of Pseudomonas aeruginosa-induced chronic lung infection may be determined by differences in host inflammatory responses. In the present study we investigate this possibility using BALB/c and C57B1/6 mice, resistant and susceptible, respectively, to chronic lung infection with P. aeruginosa. Following intratracheal inoculation of P. aeruginosa-impregnated agar beads, C57B1/6 mice mounted a stronger inflammatory response with significantly higher total cell numbers in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid compared with BALB/c mice. While polymorphonuclear leucocytes were the predominant cell in C57B1/6 mice, macrophages constituted the majority in BALB/c mice at day 7 post-infection. Alveolar macrophages from C57B1/6 mice showed significantly higher spontaneous production of nitric oxide (NO) at day 7 post-injection compared with BALB/c mice. Following in vitro stimulation with heat-killed Pseudomonas antigen, these cells produced significantly higher NO compared with cells from BALB/c mice at day 21 post-infection. Production of tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) by alveolar macrophages was significantly higher at day 7 in BALB/c mice compared with C57B1/6 mice, which showed significantly higher at day 28 post-infection. Taken together, these results suggest that defects in the host inflammatory process contribute to the variable outcome of chronic lung infection with P. aeruginosa. An exaggerated inflammatory response dominated by polymorphonuclear cells correlates with susceptibility to infection, whilst a modest inflammatory response dominated by macrophages correlates with resistance. Moreover, the quantity and timing of production of NO and TNF-α by alveolar macrophages may modulate the course and outcome of infection.