Several studies have documented the efficacy of low-dose intradermal administration of hepatitis B vaccine. However, little is known about the duration of protection provided by low-dose intradermal administration of hepatitis B vaccine. This study reports results from a 5-year follow up period of 200 healthy children (100 infants and 100 preschool children) immunized intradermally with 2 mug doses of recombinant hepatitis B vaccine (GenHevac B) at months 0,1, and 6. In the 8th week after the third vaccine dose, 97% of the children developed anti-HBs antibodies higher than or equal to 10 mlU ml(-1), and the antiHBs geometric mean titre (GMT) was 676 mlU ml(-1). In month 18 and year 5, the anti-HBs GMT decreased to approximately one-third (220 mlU ml(-1)) and one-tenth (68 mlU ml(-1)) of the initial levels, respectively. However, 87% of the children had protective levels of anti-HBs ( greater than or equal to 10 mlU ml(-1)) after 5 years. Among 156 children followed for 5 years, none became positive for anti-HBc and/or HbsAg. Seven children who were seronegative after 5 years developed anti-HBs antibodies higher than 1000 mlU ml(-1) after an additional 10 mug intramuscular hepatitis B vaccine. Persistent immunologic memory over periods of 5 years or more is evident, the anamnestic antibody response to a booster dose of vaccine, even in these children who have lost antibody. We conclude that intradermal administration of 2 mug recombinant hepatitis B vaccine provides long-term protection against hepatitis B virus in infants and preschool children. (C) 2001 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.