Myeloperoxidase (MPO), a specific polymorphonuclear leukocyte enzyme, has been used previously to quantify the number of neutrophils in tissue. MPO activity was found to be linearly related to the number of neutrophil cells. In an attempt to use this method in leukocytes measuring in stool, fecal MPO was solubilized with hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide and the MPO activity was measured by a dianisidine-H2O2 assay. Stools from 10 normal subjects and 39 patients with diarrhea produced by enteropathogenic bacteria were examined for leukocytes by MPO activity as well as microscopically using methylene blue stain, MPO activity was positive in 36 patients (92%) and leukocytes were present by microscopic observation in 30 (77%). Fecal leukocytes were not found in healthy controls and the MPO activity was undectable. Stool MPO activity had a range of from 1.6 to 2,830.0 x 10(3) UMPO per gram of feces (median 460.0). The number of neutrophils obtained through MPO activity had a range of 6.0 to 13,216.0/ mm3 (median 1,261.0). Fecal MPO activity is a simple biochemical assay for the detection and quantification of fecal leukocytes.