A microtitre solid-phase blocking radioimmunoassay (RIA) for antibody to the hepatitis B virus (HBV)-associated delta antigen was specific and detected anti-delta antibody at dilutions of serum of up to 10(6). Analysis of sera from HBsAg-negative subjects and different categories of HBsAg carriers from different regions confirmed the association of anti-delta antibody with HBV infection. Anti-delta antibody was detected in persistently high titres in 19.1% and 2.6% of sera from patients with chronic hepatitis and symptomatic chronic carriers, respectively, and was not detected in the sera of HBsAg-negative controls. Anti-delta antibody appeared transiently and in low titres (less than 1:500) in 4.8% of sera from patients with acute type B hepatitis. The presence and persistence of anti-delta antibody seem to be associated with chronic HBV infection and the development of progressive liver damage.