- Background Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is an incurable neurodegenerative motor neuron disease that involves activation of the immune system and inflammatory response in the nervous system. Reduced level of the immuno-modulatory and anti-inflammatory protein alpha-1-antitrypsin (AAT) is associated with inflammation-related pathologies. The objective of the present is to determine AAT levels and IL-23 in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of ALS patients and control group. Findings CSF samples from newly diagnosed ALS patients and age-matched controls were analyzed for AAT and IL-23 by ELISA and magnetic luminex screening, respectively. A statistically significant reduction of 45 % in mean AAT levels was observed in the CSF of ALS patients (21.4 μg/ml) as compared to the control group (mean 38.8 μg/ml, p = 0.013). A statistically significant increase of 30.8 % in CSF mean levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-23 was observed in ALS patients (1647 pg/ml) in comparison to the controls (1259 pg/ml, p = 0.012). A negative correlation coefficient (r = −0.543) was obtained by linear regression analysis of the two measured parameters (p = 0.036). Conclusions Reduced AAT and elevated IL-23 CSF levels support the notion of neuroinflammatory process occurring in ALS patients. Increasing AAT levels in the patients’ nervous system should be further investigated as a new therapeutic approach and a novel potential tool for ALS treatment.