A 38-day-old male infant with persistent pulmonary hypertension and respiratory failure since birth was found to have a complete absence of surfactant protein B (SP-B) along with an aberrant form of SP-C in his tracheal aspirate fluid, findings consistent with the diagnosis of hereditary SP-B deficiency. Surprisingly, SP-B and SP-B messenger ribonucleic acid were present in lung biopsy tissue. However, DNA sequence analysis demonstrated a point mutation in exon 5 of one of the SP-B gene alleles. The infant's mother was found to be a comer of this mutation. The infant's other SP-B allele did not differ from the published DNA sequence for the SP-B gene. We conclude that this patient had a transient deficiency of SP-B, in contrast to that of previously described infants with irreversible respiratory failure caused by hereditary SP-B deficiency. We recommend that infants with suspected SP-B deficiency have serial analysis of tracheal fluid samples for both SP-B and SP-C before lung biopsy, along with genetic analysis for the known SP-B mutations. We speculate that the new mutation found in one of this patient's SP-B genes was in part responsible for the transient deficiency of SP-B.