To determine whether Staphylococcus aureus Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL) is expressed during human infection, anti-PVL antibody titres were compared in patients with PVL-positive and PVL-negative staphylococcal infections, and in patients with no evidence of S. aureus infection. Patients with PVL-positive strains had higher levels of anti-PVL antibodies than individuals of both control groups. The median anti-PVL titre increased 8.6-fold during the course of PVL-positive infection and 1.4-fold during PVL-negative infection. These results indicate that only PVL-positive S. aureus strains elicit significant anti-PVL antibody production in humans, and demonstrate the production of PVL during PVL-positive S. aureus infection. The protective role of this immune response remains to be established.