The leucocyte adhesion molecule L-selectin (CD62L) is rapidly cleaved off proteolytically after cell activation, generating soluble L-selectin (sCD62L) molecules. sCD62L concentrations were determined in 185 cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples obtained from children aged 1 month to 17 years. In 36 CSF samples of children with meningoencephalitis, sCD62L was significantly higher (median 209 fmol/ml) than in samples of children with other febrile diseases (n = 67, median 50 fmol/ml) or non-febrile disorders (n = 82, median 44 fmol/ml). There was a positive correlation between CSF protein and CSF sCD62L (rS = 0.68), suggesting that a disturbed blood-brain barrier contributes to raised sCD62L concentrations in the CSF. However, the CSF sCD62L/protein ratio of children with meningoencephalitis was significantly higher than in children with other febrile diseases or non-febrile disorders, indicating that sCD62L concentrations in children with meningoencephalitis were higher than expected from plasma leakage alone. It is concluded that both an impaired blood-brain barrier and the generation of sCD62L by infiltrating leucocytes contribute to raised CSF sCD62L concentrations in children with meningoencephalitis.