Unexplained lymphadenopathy, with or without accompanying symptoms, known as the “lymphadenopathy syndrome,” has been recognized in groups at risk for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), namely, homosexuals and hemophiliacs. To date, however, no test has been defined that discriminates between asymptomatic individuals and those with adenopathy in these high-risk groups. The T colony assay, which measures T lymphocyte growth in soft agar and which allows selective T cell proliferation with minimal cell-cell contact, was evaluated in asymptomatic hemophiliacs. Significantly lower mean colony counts were found in eight hemophiliacs with adenopathy (HA), 763 +/- 348 (+/- SEM), than in 16 healthy hemophiliacs (HH) 3,044 +/- 661 (P less than .005), or than in 24 heterosexual control subjects, 3,964 +/- 395 (P less than .005). The in vitro addition of exogenous interleukin-2 (IL- 2) restored normal colony growth in the HA population. These results indicate that the T colony assay can detect abnormal cell-mediated immunity among hemophiliacs and specifically discriminates between asymptomatic hemophiliacs (HH) and those with adenopathy (HA). In addition, IL-2 may be of potential benefit in improving T cell defects in AIDS or the “lymphadenopathy syndrome”; however, this remains to be proven.