Eosinophils are white blood cells that in humans are found in association with helminthic infections and various inflammatory disease processes. These cells contain a unique lysosomal peroxidase that oxidizes halides to generate highly reactive and toxic hypohalous acids. Although chloride is found in vivo at concentrations at least 1000-fold greater than those of other halides, human eosinophils did not preferentially oxidize chloride under physiologic conditions. Instead, eosinophils used bromide, a halide with a hitherto unknown function in humans, to generate a halogenating oxidant with characteristics similar, if not identical, to those of hypobromous acid. These results indicate that physiological concentrations of bromide arm human eosinophils with the ability to generate and release an unusual oxidant capable of destroying a wide range of prokaryotic and eukaryotic targets.