The role of the Vi antigen, the capsular polysaccharide of Salmonella typhi, in the pathogenesis of and immunity to typhoid fever remains the subject of controversy. Vi-positive S. typhi resist phagocytosis and the action of serum complement, both of which actions are initiated by antibodies to Vi antigen. Both the laboratory potency in mice and the clinical effectiveness of whole-cell vaccines were related to their content of immunogenic Vi antigen. A Vi polysaccharide used for immunizing humans against experimental challenge with S. typhi failed to prevent typhoid fever; experimental conditions used to prepare this ineffective Vi antigen were shown to denature it and to reduce its immunogenicity. Assay of serum antibodies to Vi antigen with purified Vi antigen is a reliable method for diagnosis of typhoid fever and asymptomatic carriage of S. typhi. Vi polysaccharides prepared by modern techniques passed the requirements for meningococcal polysaccharide vaccines and had approximately 13 times the protective activity in the mouse potency assay as did the US Standard 6A whole-cell typhoid vaccine.