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To determine whether Ureaplasma urealyticum respiratory tract colonization in very low birth weight infants during the first week of life is associated with changes in tracheal aspirate concentrations of the cytokines interleukin 1-beta (IL-1-beta), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) and IL-6.Infants with birth weights ≤1250 g were prospectively enrolled. Samples were obtained from the endotracheal tube or nasopharynx on Day 1 and again between Days 7 and 10 for U. urealyticum culture. The concentrations of IL-1-beta, TNF-alpha and IL-6 were measured in tracheal aspirate samples by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.There were 18 positive cultures for U. urealyticum from 15 of 96 infants (15.6%). IL-1-beta in tracheal aspirates expressed as concentration per volume or as a ratio of IL-1-beta to IL-6 were 7- and 14.9-fold higher, respectively, in Ureaplasma-positive infants than in Ureaplasma-negative infants (P < 0.05). The TNF-alpha/IL-6 ratio was 18.9 and 15.5 times higher in the Ureaplasma-positive aspirates than in the Ureaplasma-negative aspirates on Day 1 and Days 7 to 10 (P < 0.05). Concentrations of IL-1-beta and TNF-alpha were significantly correlated on Day 1 and Days 7 to 10. Although there was no clinical association demonstrated between U. urealyticum colonization and the development of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) in this study, infants who developed BPD had significantly higher IL-1-beta concentrations and ratios of IL-1-beta to IL-6 in Day 1 aspirates than infants who did not develop BPD.Isolation of U. urealyticum from the respiratory tract is associated with increased IL-1-beta concentrations and IL-1-beta-IL-6 ratios on Day 1 and increased TNF-alpha-IL-6 ratios on Days 1 and 7 to 10 in tracheal aspirates of colonized infants. Infants who developed BPD had higher IL-1-beta concentrations and IL-1-beta-IL-6 ratios, suggesting that these may be early markers of lung inflammation.