Heat-stable antigens from Helicobacter pylori were investigated for the detection of serum IgG, IgA and IgM antibodies against H. pylori by an ELISA technique. Antibody titers against H. pylori were measured in 167 dyspeptic patients, of whom 96 were H. pylori positive confirmed by culture or microscopy, and in 482 controls (0-98 years). Increased IgG antibody titers were found significantly more often in dyspeptic patients with active chronic gastritis than in patients with normal morphology, as well as in H. pylori-positive patients as compared to H. pylori-negative patients, independent of the endoscopic findings. The heat-stable antigens were compared with acid glycine-extracted antigens and a high degree of concordance was found in the results obtained with the two antigen preparations. The differences in the IgA antibody titers against H. pylori between H. pylori-positive and H. pylori-negative dyspeptic patients were significant and may be useful to confirm a borderline IgG result. No differences were found in IgM antibody titer between H. pylori-positive and -negative patients. The greatest age-dependent increase in IgG and IgA antibody titers was found in children, and if a lower cut-off level is used for children than for adults, as has been proposed, the proportion of people with increased antibody titers against H. pylori would be almost constant from the age of between five and 10 years until the time between 61 and 80 years. Comparison of H. pylori IgG antibodies with IgG antibodies against Campylobacter jejuni and total antibodies against cytomegalovirus (CMV) showed a greater similarity between H. pylori and C. jejuni (R = 0.51) than between H. pylori and CMV (R = 0.22). This may possibly be caused by cross-reactions between H. pylori and C. jejuni. The H. pylori heat-stabile antigen seems not to be very different from other crude H. pylori antigens like acid glycine-extracted antigens, but purification and characterization of the antigens are needed to improve antibody assays.