Virus-induced autoimmunity may play a causal role in autism. To examine the etiologic link of viruses in this brain disorder, we conducted a serologic study of measles virus, mumps virus, and rubella virus. Viral antibodies were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in the serum of autistic children, normal children, and siblings of autistic children. The level of measles antibody, but not mumps or rubella antibodies, was significantly higher in autistic children as compared with normal children (P = 0.003) or siblings of autistic children (P <or= 0.0001). Furthermore, immunoblotting of measles vaccine virus revealed that the antibody was directed against a protein of approximately 74 kd molecular weight. The antibody to this antigen was found in 83% of autistic children but not in normal children or siblings of autistic children. Thus autistic children have a hyperimmune response to measles virus, which in the absence of a wild type of measles infection might be a sign of an abnormal immune reaction to the vaccine strain or virus reactivation.