Antibody capture radioimmunoassays were developed for detecting virus specific IgM (MACRIA) and IgG (GACRIA) to measles, mumps, and rubella and used to investigate saliva as an alternative specimen to serum for diagnosis. Saliva was collected from 63 patients with measles, 19 with mumps, and 150 with rubella, which were all clinically diagnosed and serologically confirmed. Virus specific IgM was detected in 92% of measles, 75% of mumps, and 100% of rubella saliva samples collected during the first week of illness. Between 1 and 5 weeks after onset virus specific IgM was detected in 100% of saliva specimens. After the 5th week the proportion of reactive specimens declined. The specificity of the MACRIA tests was established by testing saliva samples collected from blood donors for measles (88), mumps (88), and rubella IgM (91). All of the saliva specimens tested for measles and rubella specific IgM were unreactive, 1/88 specimens tested for mumps specific IgM contained significant reactivity. Saliva specimens collected from acute cases of MMR were tested in all 3 MACRIAs. A small proportion of saliva samples contained detectable IgM of more than one virus infection. Rubella and measles specific IgG was detected in the saliva of all cases from the 4th or 5th day of illness, respectively. Detection of mumps specific IgG was less successful. We have demonstrated that virus specific IgM can be reliably detected in saliva samples collected from acute cases of measles, mumps, and rubella and identified 1-5 weeks after onset of illness as the optimum time for collection of samples.