The term 'endemic normal' in the context of filariasis refers to people who are amicrofilaremic and free of clinical signs or symptoms of filariasis despite regular exposure to the parasite. Some sera from endemic normals contain soluble Wuchereria bancrofti antigens that are detectable by enzyme- linked immunosorbent assay. We now report evidence that filarial antigenemia in these people is not an artifact and that it is indicative of active W. bancrofti infection. Filarial antigenemia was first detected within one month of the onset of microfilarial patency in experimentally infected primates. Human sera from antigen-positive endemic normals contained the same filarial antigens (by Western blot) as sera from people with microfilaremia. Sera from antigen-positive endemic normals also contained significantly higher levels of immunoglobulin G4 antibodies to native and recombinant filarial antigens than sera from antigen-negative controls matched for age and sex. The epidemiology of filarial antigenemia in endemic normals was studied with sera from a population-based study of filariasis in an Egyptian village with a microfilaria prevalence of 29%. Seventeen percent of endemic normals had antigenemia, and this group comprised 11% of the total village sample. Filarial antigenemia was significantly more common in endemic normals more than 30 years of age than in younger people. These results suggest that amicrofilaremic and asymptomatic W. bancrofti infections are relatively common in endemic areas. Additional studies are needed to determine the clinical significance, prognosis, and optimal management of such infections.