BACKGROUND: Streptococcus pneumoniae is a major cause of meningitis, bacteremia, pneumonia and otitis media. Pneumococcal polysaccharides are not immunogenic in infants, but improved immunogenicity of polysaccharide-protein conjugates has been demonstrated. Antibiotic-resistant pneumococci have increased the need for an effective vaccine. OBJECTIVE: To study the safety and immunogenicity of a pneumococcal type 6B polysaccharidetetanus toxoid conjugate (Pn6B-TT) in infants and to assess the function of antibodies. METHODS: Healthy infants were injected, Group A at 3, 4 and 6 months (n = 21) and Group B at 7 and 9 months (n = 19). Booster injection was given at 18 months. Antibodies were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and radioimmunoassay, and functional activity was measured by opsonization of radiolabeled pneumococci. Nasopharyngeal cultures were obtained. RESULTS: No significant adverse reactions were observed. Pn6B-IgG (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) increased to a geometric mean of 0.62 microgram/ml (P = 0.367, compared with prevaccination titers) in Group A at 7 months and 1.22 micrograms/ml (P 300 ng of antibody N/ml. Opsonic activity, after initial and booster vaccinations, correlated with Pn6B-antibody titers. Three infants with nasopharyngeal cultures repeatedly positive for serogroup 6 had poor serum IgG responses. CONCLUSION: Our results demonstrate that Pn6B-TT is safe, elicits functional antibodies and memory responses in infants.