It has been suggested that nitric oxide (NO) plays an important role in the pathogenesis of severe falciparum malaria. Since NO has a very short half-life, nitrate and nitrite (NOx) levels, stable metabolites of NO, are used as measures of NO production. We measured plasma NOx levels in 24 adults with severe falciparum malaria on the Thai-Burmese border. After correction for renal function, there was no correlation between plasma NOx levels, or the total amount of NOx excreted in the urine, and disease severity. Plasma NOx levels decreased after the first 48 hr in all patients (P = 0.007), suggesting decreased NO production. The NOx levels in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) correlated well with plasma NOx levels, but these did not show a correlation with coma depth, and were not significantly different from those in a healthy control group. These findings do not support the hypothesis that excessive NO production contributes to the pathogenesis of severe falciparum malaria. However, local changes in NO production, e.g., in the central nervous system, might not be reflected in the total NOx production or NOx levels in the CSF.