We examined retrospectively the incidence of herpes zoster among 58 Japanese patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), 42 patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc) and 21 patients with autoimmune bullous diseases (AIBD). The incidence of herpes zoster was significantly higher in SLE (46.6%) than in SSc (9.5%) or AIBD (4.7%) (P < 0.001). The rate of positive delayed-type skin test with varicella zoster virus antigens was significantly lower in SLE than in SSc [4/16 (25.0%) vs. 11/12 (91.7%), P < 0.001]. In addition, the positive rate of skin test with purified protein derivatives of tuberculin was also low in SLE patients (3/16, 18.8%). These results reconfirm the general impairment in cellular immunity in SLE.