Approximately 50 to 60% of Helicobacter pylori isolates produce a vacuolating cytotoxin in vitro. To assess cytotoxin production in vivo, we sought to determine whether infection with a Tox+ H. pylori strain is associated with the presence of serum antitoxin antibodies. H. pylori isolates and serum samples were obtained from 30 patients, and serum samples were obtained from 20 uninfected patients as controls. Sera were tested by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for reactivity with the purified 87-kDa vacuolating cytotoxin, and the 30 H. pylori isolates were tested for vacuolating cytotoxin production. Supernatants from 14 (47%) of the 30 H. pylori isolates induced vacuolation of HeLa cells. Sera from the 30 H. pylori-infected patients reacted with the purified 87-kDa cytotoxin to a greater extent than sera from the uninfected controls for both immunoglobulin G (IgG) and IgA classes (P = 0.0004 and P < 0.0001, respectively). Serum IgG and IgA responses to the purified 87-kDa cytotoxin were higher among the 14 patients infected with Tox+ strains than among the 16 patients infected with Tox- strains (mean optical densities +/- standard errors of the means of 0.603 +/- 0.11 versus 0.234 +/- 0.07 [P = 0.005] and 0.644 +/- 0.12 versus 0.341 +/- 0.08 [P = 0.04] for IgG and IgA, respectively). Infection with a Tox+ strain compared with a Tox- strain was associated with increased antral polymorphonuclear leukocyte inflammation scores (P = 0.04). These data indicate that cytotoxin production by H. pylori isolates in vitro correlates with cytotoxin production in vivo and that infection with Tox+ H. pylori isolates may be associated with increased antral mucosal polymorphonuclear leukocyte infiltration.