If a proper gold standard is not available, then the predictive value of a test cannot be estimated. In this paper the concept of etiologic predictive value (EPV) is introduced. It is a quantity that will yield the predictive value of a test to predict presence of a specified disease in situations for which no proper gold standard is available. This is achieved by using information obtained from a healthy control population. This quantity requires that the marker in our test is present in all individuals having the specified disease, as in the case where the marker is the aetiologic factor for the specified disease. Furthermore this quantity requires that asymptomatic carriers are present. This means that not all individuals with the marker has the specified disease. EPV is developed with special reference to the evaluation of bacterial cultures, or rapid tests to detect a bacterium, but the quantity might be used in other circumstances as well. EPV is applied to an example in which conventional throat culture is evaluated. Further information concerning EPV can be found at http://www.infovice.se/fou/epv. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.