This study was designed to examine the effects of erdosteine on bleomycin (BLM)-induced lung fibrosis in rats. Thirty-three Sprague-Dawley rats were divided randomly into three groups, bleomycin alone (BLM), bleomycin+erdosteine (BLM+ERD), and saline alone (control). The BLM and BLM+ERD groups, were given 2.5 mg/kg BLM intratracheally. The first dose of oral erdosteine (10 mg/kg/day) in the BLM+ERD group was started 2 days before BLM administration and continued until animals were sacrificed. Animals were sacrificed 14 days after intratracheal instillation of BLM. The effect of erdosteine on pulmonary fibrosis was studied by analysis of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid, histopathology, and biochemical measurements of lung tissue superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione (GSH) as antioxidants, malondialdehyde (MDA) as an index for lipid peroxidation, and nitrite/nitrate levels. Bleomycin-induced lung fibrosis as determined by lung histology was prevented with erdosteine (grades of fibrosis were 4.9, 2.3, and 0.2 in BLM, BLM+ERD, and control groups, respectively). Erdosteine also prevented bleomycin-induced increase in MDA (MDA levels were 0.50 +/- 0.15, 0.11 +/- 0.02, and 0.087 +/- 0.03 nmol/mg protein in BLM, BLM+ERD, and control groups, respectively) and nitrite/nitrate (nitrite/nitrate levels were 0.92 +/- 0.06, 0.60 +/- 0.09, and 0.56 +/- 0.1 mu mol/mg protein in BLM, BLM+ERD, and control groups respectively) levels. Bleomycin-induced decrease in GSH and SOD levels in the lung tissue also prevented by erdosteine [(GSH levels were 213.5 +/- 12.4, 253.2 +/- 25.2, and 287.9 +/- 34.4 nmol/mg protein) (SOD levels were 1.42 +/- 0.12, 1.75 +/- 0.17, and 1.89 +/- 0.09 U/mg protein) in BLM, BLM+ERD, and control groups respectively]. Erdosteine prevented bleomycin-induced increases in total cell number and neutrophil content of the BAL fluid. In conclusion, oral erdosteine is effective in prevention of BLM-induced lung fibrosis in rats possibly via the repression of neutrophil accumulation, inhibition of lipid peroxidation, and maintenance of antioxidant and free radical scavenger properties.