A number of viruses have been implicated as being the cause of various forms of myositis, including acute transient myositis, chronic polymyositis, and dermatomyositis. However, the cause of juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM) has remained elusive. Our study of serum samples taken within 4 months of the onset of disease in 12 children with JDM showed that 83% had detectable titers of complement-fixing (CF) antibody to 1 or more coxsackie B viral antigens. Detectable titers were found in only 25% of age-, sex-, and date-matched control sera taken from 24 patients with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), and in 25% of serum samples taken from 2,192 "normal" children who had been hospitalized because of viral syndromes. Titers of CF antibody to coxsackie B1, B2, and B4 were positive in 58%, 50%, and 58%, respectively, of the JDM patients. In matched JRA controls, the respective values were 8%, 13%, and 8%. There were no significant antiviral titers and no significant differences in the results of tests for 13 other viral CF antigens, hepatitis B surface antigen, and Mycoplasma pneumoniae CF antigen in the JDM patient sera compared with the JRA patient sera. When titers of neutralizing antibody were determined, 58%, 58%, and 67% of the JDM patients were positive for coxsackie B2, B4, and B5, respectively, whereas 16%, 26%, and 21%, respectively, of the JRA controls were positive for the 3 antigens. These data suggest that the host response to coxsackie B virus might be related to the pathophysiology of JDM.