Peritoneal and peripheral blood monocyte-macrophages from inbred Lewis (LEW) rats generate higher levels of reactive oxygen intermediates (ROI) in response to group A streptococcal cell walls (SCW) than do similar populations of cells from histocompatible Fischer rats. This differential sensitivity of the phagocytes to SCW is reflected in differences in susceptibility of the two strains to the development of arthritis in response to SCW. After systemic administration of the SCW, LEW rats develop acute and chronic erosive polyarthritis, whereas the Fischer rats are arthritis resistant. Inasmuch as these data suggested that the SCW-induced release of inflammatory cell products such as ROI might be an important contributory factor in the pathogenesis of arthritis in the LEW rats, the animals were injected with SCW and treated with ROI inhibitors. A single intraarticular injection of superoxide dismutase or catalase significantly reduced the SCW-induced inflammatory response and evolution of erosive arthritis in the treated animals (articular index 3.6 ± 0.36 for SCW only vs 1.4 ± 0.3 for SCW + SOD; p < 0.001; n = 6). These data indicate that ROI play a pivotal role in synovitis and, furthermore, that suppression of these inflammatory mediators modulates both acute and chronic SCW-induced inflammation of the joint.