A sensitive, and at times the most sensitive, measurement of human vaccine immunogenicity is enumeration of antibody-secreting cells (ASC) in peripheral blood. However, this assay, which is inherently capable of measurement of the absolute number of antigen-specific ASC, is not standardized. Thus, quantitative comparison of results between laboratories is not currently possible. To address this issue, isotype-specific ASC were enumerated from paired fresh and cryopreserved mononuclear cell (MNC) preparations from healthy adult volunteers resident in either the United States (US group) or Egypt (EG group). Analysis of fresh cells from US volunteers revealed mean numbers of ASC per 10(6) MNC of 617, 7,738, and 868 for immunoglobulin M (IgM), IgG, and IgA, respectively, whereas EG volunteers had 2,086, 7,580, and 1,677 ASC/10(6) MNC for the respective isotypes. Cryopreservation resulted in a slight reduction in group mean IgM, IgG, and IgA ASC (maximum reduction in group mean, 14%), but in no instance were results obtained with cryopreserved cells significantly lower than those obtained with fresh cells. To determine if cryopreservation affected the number of bacterial antigen-specific ASC detected, cells from a group of US adult volunteers who received a single oral dose of a mutated Escherichia coli heat-labile enterotoxin (LT(R192G)) were tested. There was no significant difference (P > 0.05) in the number of antigen-specific IgA or IgG ASC detected between fresh and cryopreserved MNC. The results support the views that ASC assays can be standardized to yield quantitative results and that the methodology can be changed to make the test more practical.