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In a cohort of 1000 Gambian children immunized with four doses of 10 μg of plasma-derived hepatitis B virus vaccine, 44 subjects (4.4%) showed no response (<10 mIU/ml; 6 subjects) or low specific antibody response (10 to 99 mIU/ml; 38 subjects) to hepatitis B surface antigen. Serologic indices, potentially correlated with low immunologic response, were investigated in sera obtained from these children and in sex-, age and village-matched controls who showed a normal response. The presence of circulating immune complexes in similar proportion of responding and poorly responding children together with a low prevalence of rheumatoid factors suggested that polyclonal B cell activation was not correlated with the subnormal humoral response. Concentrations of serum immunoglobulin (Ig) and IgG subclasses did not differ in the two groups. Some of the African prevalent Ig allotypes were determined, but no significant differences in the two groups were found. The humoral response to hepatitis B surface antigen did not correlate with the response to tetanus toxoid.