Both native human IFN-beta or -gamma added to human monocytes in culture increased their leishmaniacidal effect on intracellular Leishmania tropica major (L. major) amastigotes. This effect was dose-dependent, and was apparent if the IFN was added either before or after infection of the monocyte cultures with the promastigote form of the parasite. Compared on the basis of antiviral activity, IFN-gamma was shown to have a leishmaniacidal effect approximately three times greater than IFN-beta. Recombinant IFN preparations showed similar effects. In addition, IFN-gamma increased H2O2 production from human monocytes in culture in a dose-dependent manner. Monoclonal antibody to IFN-gamma abrogated both its effect on the leishmaniacidal capacity and on H2O2 production by the monocytes. These results suggest that IFN-gamma may be of therapeutic value in cutaneous leishmaniasis.