There is little information about naturally occurring protective immunity in individuals living in areas endemic for lymphatic filariasis, though an immunologically hyperresponsive, uninfected group of 'endemic normal' individuals that may be immune has been previously recognized. To analyze the nature of the hyperresponsiveness and its potential relation to a state of protective immunity in such individuals, strict clinical, parasitological, and serological criteria were applied to select seven 'infection-free' endemic normal individuals (ENs) from a population of 459 persons resident in an area heavily endemic for bancroftian filariasis. Immunoblot analysis was used to compare the qualitative antigen recognition patterns of these endemic normal individuals to those of a group of 12 clearly infected microfilaremic individuals (MFs) from the same endemic area. Though immunoblot analysis using microfilarial and adult stage filarial antigens revealed no distinct differences in antigen recognition patterns between the two groups, when responses to infective larval stage antigens were assessed, 7/7 (100%) of the ENs were found to recognize a 43-kD antigen that was recognized by only 1/12 (8%) of the MFs. These findings are consistent with the concept that recognition of unique larval antigens may induce protective immunity to human filarial parasites and they identify a candidate immunogen for further functional assessment.