Quantitative antibody levels to three herpesviruses in acute and chronic sera from six patients with clinical signs of the acute retinal necrosis syndrome were consistent with a specific etiologic diagnosis only in the two cases associated with cutaneous herpes zoster. Available data on acute and convalescent antibody titers to herpes group viruses from these six patients in addition to data from 27 acute retinal necrosis cases from the literature disclosed that only 13 of the 33 patients (39%) had a diagnostic increase or decrease in herpes group viral antibody levels on serial sampling. Three patients had nondiagnostic changes in viral antibody levels despite positive vitreous cultures for herpesviruses. In contrast, a review of 25 cases from the literature with paired antiviral serum and intraocular fluid antibody levels suggested a more promising approach to the etiologic diagnosis of the acute retinal necrosis syndrome. By calculating the ratio of antiviral antibodies in intraocular fluid and serum, an etiologic diagnosis could be made in 12 of 14 (86%) of subacute and convalescent samples. The sensitivity of this method decreased to 72% (13 of 18) when fluids were obtained earlier in the course of the disease.