To determine the relative importance of mites as a cause of allergic sensitivity and asthma on the western Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, we measured specific IgE antibodies to common inhalant allergens in sera from Mauritians claiming to have allergic symptoms and we examined house dust samples for evidence of mites and their allergens. Seventy-two of the 110 sera tested (65%) contained detectable IgE antibody to at least one mite, mould or pollen allergenic extract. By far the most prevalent was antibody to one or both of the common house dust mites, Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus and Dermatophagoides farinae, being present in 67(61%) of the 110 sera. Allergy to pollens, including the locally prevalent Bermuda grass and sugar cane, was infrequent. Antibody to a limited number of moulds was detected in 22% of the sera tested. Of 81 subjects whose clinical history was known, 60 were asthmatic, and 75% of these asthmatic individuals had IgE antibody to mites. In contrast, only 35% of the subjects with rhinitis without asthma were sensitive to mites. Different mite species, including D. pteronyssinus but not D. farinae, were identified microscopically in samples of local house dust. Mite antigen Der p I but not antigen Der f I was detected with specific monoclonal antibodies in extracts of these dust samples. On the bases of this serological and environmental survey, we conclude that our data support the hypothesis that the house dust mite D. pteronyssinus is the principal cause of allergic sensitivity and asthma in that tropical environment.