The local and systemic antibody response after oral administration of a nonenteropathogenic type 1 fimbriated Escherichia coli O83 strain was followed in nine breast-fed and eight formula-fed infants during their first 15 wk of life. Five breast-fed and six formula-fed infants were followed as controls. E. coli O83 was detected in the stools of colonized infants from d 2 after colonization and persisted in the intestine for up to 26 wk. The percentage of children successfully colonized with E. coli O83 was higher among breast-fed than among formula-fed colonized infants. Also, the O83 bacteria isolated from the breast-fed children had a higher capacity to attach to colonic epithelial cells of the HT-29 cell line than those isolated from bottle-fed infants. E. coli O83 IgA and IgM antibodies estimated by ELISA were significantly elevated in the saliva of colonized as compared with control infants 2-7 wk after colonization. IgA antibodies against O83 were also higher in the stool of colonized formula-fed infants than in formula-fed controls. The results suggest that the mucosal immune system of the newborn infant can be triggered early to produce specific antibodies against bacteria colonizing the intestine.