AIMS--To investigate whether the absorbance index of IgG and IgA antibodies against Helicobacter pylori is related to a semiquantitative assessment of the density of H pylori colonisation in gastric biopsy specimens and to the severity of gastritis. METHODS--The grade of gastritis was scored separately for antral and fundic mucosa using three different classifications. Serum IgA and IgG antibodies against H pylori were measured by ELISA. The density of gastric H pylori colonisation was graded semiquantitatively from 0 to 3. RESULTS--Among 48 healthy volunteers studied, 17 were found to have gastritis according to Whitehead's criteria. H pylori was present in the biopsy specimens of 14 of 17 subjects with gastritis. The IgG H pylori antibody absorbance index was significantly (p < 0.05) correlated not only with the density of antral H pylori colonisation, but also with the degree of gastritis of the antrum, as assessed by the Whitehead score, activity, and the Sydney system (p < 0.05). The IgA H pylori antibody absorbance index was significantly correlated with the Whitehead score and Sydney system, but not with the activity score of the antrum or with the density of antral gastric H pylori infection. There were no significant correlations between the IgG H pylori antibody absorbance index and the gastritis scores of the fundus mucosa and the density of H pylori infection of the gastric body. The IgA H pylori antibody absorbance index was only significantly (p < 0.05) correlated with the density of H pylori colonisation and the Sydney system gastritis score of the corpus. CONCLUSIONS--The serological absorbance index of IgG antibodies against H pylori is related to the severity of antral gastritis and the density of antral H pylori colonisation. Thus a high absorbance index of IgG antibodies against H pylori points to severe antral gastritis and dense H pylori colonisation of the antrum.