A study was devised to determine whether or not any immune defense mechanism is present when a virus invades the human endolymphatic sac (ES). The ES was removed from 14 fresh autopsy cases having no known pre-mortem diseases in the middle and inner ears. Specimens were then examined for viral antigens including herpes simplex (HSV) type 1 and 2, mumps and cytomegalovirus using immunohistochemical methods. DNA examination by in situ hybridization was also performed for HSV. HSV antigen and DNA were observed in 9 of the 14 cases studied. These findings suggest that the virus invades the ES but is impeded by an immune defense mechanism under normal conditions. Since disease may alter host defenses, further studies are warranted to study the relationship between HSV and patients with Menieretextquoterights disease.