Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) convalescent-phase sera and control sera from both infants ( < 6 months) and older individuals (1.5 to 90 years) were assayed for RSV-specific antibodies by neutralization, in vitro enhancing activity, and immunoprecipitation. Enhancement of RSV infection in U937 cells was demonstrated with convalescent-phase sera and was shown to be dependent on Fc receptors by blocking with human immunoglobulin G (P < 0.01). Convalescent-phase sera from infants enhanced infection at concentrations closer to physiological ones (10(-1) to 10(-3) dilutions of serum), while convalescent-phase sera from older individuals enhanced infection only at much lower concentrations (10(-3) to 10(-6) dilutions of serum; P < 0.01). To our knowledge, this is the first report of RSV-enhancing antibody activity in the sera of infants. The observed enhancing activity and the low neutralizing antibody levels are confined mostly to convalescent-phase sera from infants aged 0 to 6 months, suggesting that these factors may contribute to the increased severity of RSV disease frequently encountered in young infants.