BACKGROUND: Young children have the highest incidence of meningococcal infection. Approximately 50\% of disease in United States children less than 2 years of age is caused by serogroups C and Y. In the developing world, serogroups A and W-135 cause outbreaks and epidemics of infection. METHODS: Three groups of 30 infants were enrolled. The first group of infants was given 3 doses of a quadrivalent (group A, C, Y, W-135) polysaccharide meningococcal vaccine conjugated to diphtheria toxoid (MCV-4) at a dosage of 1 microg of each serogroup polysaccharide. The second group of infants was given MCV-4 at a dosage of 4 microg, and the last group of children received a 10-microg dosage. Vaccinations were given at 2, 4 and 6 months of age.A subset of these children was vaccinated at 15 to 18 months of age with licensed meningococcal polysaccharide (A, C, Y, W-135) vaccine. Serum bactericidal antibody (SBA) titers were measured with baby rabbit complement. RESULTS: The proportion of infants with local reactions increased significantly with increasing dosages after Injection 1 and 3. Approximately 1 month after completion of the primary series, the proportion of infants with an SBA titer \textgreater or = 1/8 ranged from 54 to 92\%, depending on the serogroup and dose of polysaccharide contained in the vaccine. The SBA geometric mean titer varied from 17.4 to 101.6. There was no statistically significant difference between the SBA responses among the 3 dosage groups. After vaccination with polysaccharide vaccine at 15 to 18 months of age, mean fold increases in SBA of 4.9 to 170.3 were observed, suggesting an anamnestic response. CONCLUSIONS: MCV-4 appears to have a reactogenicity profile acceptable to parents and health care providers. It was only modestly immunogenic in infants, but it appeared to prime the immune system of the majority of infants given three doses in infancy. There is no statistically significant immunologic advantage conferred by increasing the dosage beyond 4 microg/ml, and local reactions are more frequent after the 10-microg/ml dosage.