Chronic bronchopulmonary infection with alginate-producing, mucoid Pseudomonas aeruginosa is characteristically associated with cystic fibrosis (CF). A significant correlation between the antibody response to alginate and poor lung function has been reported. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays were developed for the quantitation of human IgG1, IgG2, IgG3, and IgG4 antibodies to P. aeruginosa alginate. We investigated the pattern of IgG subclass antibodies against P. aeruginosa alginate in serum of patients with CF, others with chronic P. aeruginosa infection, and healthy controls. Healthy controls and patients with CF, before they acquired P. aeruginosa infection, had no or very low titers of antibodies against P. aeruginosa alginate. The latter with chronic infection had significantly higher antibody levels than all others groups, including patients with chronic P. aeruginosa infection but no CF. CF with chronic P. aeruginosa infection led to an inverse correlation between lung function parameters and levels of IgG3 and IgG4. Fifty-seven patients with CF have been followed for an average of 12 years with multiple antibody assays covering the preinfection, early, and late stage of chronic infection. All of them developed IgG1 and IgG3 antibodies to alginate at the start of infection. IgG2 antibodies developed later and showed only a slow increase during the chronic infection. Patients who died had significantly higher IgG2 anti-alginate antibody levels than other investigated groups. Elevated levels of IgG2 and IgG3 antibodies to P. aeruginosa alginate are a sign of poor prognosis in CF. © 1992 Wiley-Liss, Inc.