The immunity profile of the English and Welsh population to diphtheria and tetanus has been determined by measuring diphtheria and tetanus antitoxin levels for 3088 and 3142 sera, respectively. Time-resolved fluorimetric immunoassay - DELFIA was used to measure diphtheria antitoxin levels and an in-house, indirect ELISA to measure tetanus antitoxin levels. More than 80% of those aged between 2 and 20-24 years had protective diphtheria antitoxin levels of 0.01 IU/ml, or greater, and more than 80% of those aged between 4 and 35-39 years had protective tetanus antitoxin levels of 0.1 IU/ml, or greater. Only 29% and 53% of those aged 60 and over were protected against diphtheria and tetanus. Two increases of diphtheria antitoxin levels greater than 0.1 IU/ml and tetanus antitoxin levels greater than 1.0 IU/ml were apparent, starting at 4 and 14 years of age, which correspond with the policy of giving a diphtheria and tetanus toxoid booster on school entry and a tetanus plus low-dose diphtheria toxoid (recently introduced) booster to school leavers. This is the first comprehensive study of diphtheria and tetanus immunity in the English and Welsh population and shows that the accelerated schedule of immunisation, introduced in 1990, has effectively primed immunological memory against both these antigens and that boosting at school entry and at school leaving is effective in increasing levels of immunity. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.