Using recombinant 15- to 30-kDa fragments and fusion with glutathione S-transferase (GST), we investigated the seroreactivity of three large structural proteins of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), p150 (BcLF1, capsid), p143 (BNRF1, tegument), and gp125 (BALF4, membrane) in Western blots. None of 13 fragments tested, however, was qualified for diagnostic application. In contrast, the two small viral capsid antigens (VCA), p18 (BFRF3) and p23 (BLRF2), demonstrated sensitive (100%) EBV-specific immunoglobulin G (IgG) reactivities, While p18 additionally showed maximum sensitivity for IgM detection, the IgM sensitivity of p23 was restricted (44%), An autologous fusion protein, p23-p18, which consists N-terminally of full-length p23, followed by the carboxy half of p18, was constructed. This antigen was subjected to indirect VCA enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs), for IgG and IgM, as well as to a mu-capture (mu c) IgM ELISA. All assays were found to be 100% specific when EBV-negative sera were tested. Using sera from previously infected individuals, the p23-p18 fusion revealed an improved IgG sensitivity of 99% compared to sensitivities of 97 and 93% for the single antigens p18 and p23, respectively. The sensitivity and specificity of the indirect IgM ELISA with samples of primary and past infections, respectively, were 100%, The pc principle for IgM overcame completely the interference by rheumatoid factors. Compared to the specificity of the indirect IgM version, the specificity with sera collected from rheumatoid arthritis patients increased from 48 to 100%, In summary, the p23-p18 IgG and mu c IgM ELISAs showed excellent performances and are promising new diagnostic tests for the detection of EBV-specific antiviral capsid antibodies.