To determine the diagnostic use of different markers of acute parvovirus B19 infection, serum specimens obtained from 128 persons with erythema infectiosum were tested for specific immunoglobulin G (IgG), IgA, and IgM antibodies by capture enzyme immunoassay (EIA) using Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell-expressed B19 antigen, and tested for circulating B19 DNA by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). A significant rise in specific IgG and IgA antibodies was detected in 87% and 77%, respectively, of persons from whom acute- and convalescent-phase serum specimens were available. Specific IgA antibodies were detected in single serum specimens from 90% of cases and were present in 22 (18%) of 120 persons from a control group without a history of recent exposure to B19. Specific IgM antibodies were detected in 97% of cases and one person (1%) from the control group. B19 DNA was detected in 94% of cases and was absent in 20 persons from the control group positive for both IgG and IgA antibodies. Serum specimens obtained between 4 and 6 months after onset of illness from six additional persons were also tested. All had specific IgG antibodies, four (67%) had IgA, five (83%) had IgM, and none had detectable B19 DNA. Our data indicate that 1) specific IgA antibodies are too persistent to be a useful indicator of recent B19 infection; 2) specific IgM antibodies are the most sensitive indicator of acute B19 infection in immunologically normal persons but can persist up to 6 months; and 3) B19 DNA can often be detected up to 2 months after onset of illness even in immunologically normal hosts and might be a useful adjunct test for diagnosis of acute B19 infection.