PURPOSE: To study alterations in conjunctival collagen in the conjunctiva of patients with active trachoma. METHODS: We studied conjunctival biopsy specimens obtained from nine subjects with active trachoma and from four control subjects. We used immunohistochemical techniques and a panel of monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies directed against types I, III, IV and V collagen. RESULTS: In normal conjunctiva, the staining for types I and III collagen was localised to the substantia propria. Type IV collagen was located in the epithelial and capillary endothelial basement membranes. The staining for type V collagen was absent. In trachoma biopsy specimens, staining for types I and III collagen showed collagen fibrils among epithelial cells, patchy increase in staining intensity in the upper stroma, and thicker and irregularly arranged collagen fibrils in the substantia propria. Staining for type IV collagen showed irregularly thickened epithelial basement membrane. Staining for type V collagen showed patchy staining in the upper substantia propria; it was also noted in the cytoplasm of fibroblasts, in the walls of blood vessels in the substantia propria, and in the walls of accessory lacrimal glands. CONCLUSIONS: Our data indicate new type V collagen formation, and increased types I, III and IV collagen content, in the conjunctiva from patients with active trachoma.