Circulating leptin concentrations are raised in animal models of inflammation and sepsis and leptin production is also increased in rodents by administration of endotoxin or cytokines. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of sepsis on serum leptin concentration and whether circulating leptin was related to tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) release in newborn infants. Plasma leptin, TNF-alpha and IL-6 were measured in 20 neonates with culture-proven sepsis as soon as sepsis was diagnosed and after recovery and in 15 healthy control infants. There was no significant difference in plasma leptin levels between septic and control infants (p >0.05); there was also no difference in plasma leptin levels in septic neonates before and after therapy (p >0.05). No relationship between leptin and TNF-alpha (r = 0.16, p >0.05) or II-6 (r = 0.12, p >0.05) was identified. These findings suggest that a major role of leptin in acute neonatal sepsis appears unlikely.