Rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss were injected intraperitoneally with a bacterin containing killed Renibacterium salmoninarum cells delivered alone or in an oil-based adjuvant. We evaluated the relative abilities of the batterins to prevent the initiation or progression of infection in fish challenged by waterborne exposure to R. salmoninarum. Sixty-one days after vaccination, fish were held for 24 h in water containing either no bacteria or approximately 1.7 x 103, 1.7 x 105, or 5.3 x 106 live R. salmoninarum cells/mL. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was used to monitor changes in the levels of R. salmoninarum antigen in live fish before and after the immersion challenges. High levels of R. salmoninarum antigens were detected by ELISA in kidney-spleen tissue homogenates from vaccinated fish immediately before the challenges. Levels of those antigens remained high in the tissues of unchallenged fish throughout the study. We found that the ELISA used in this study may be unsuitable for evaluating the efficacy of batterins because it did not distinguish antigens produced by the challenge bacteria during an infection from those of the bacterins. Groups of control and vaccinated fish also were injected with either 1.7 x 104 or 1.7 x 106 R. salmoninarum cells and served as R. salmoninarum virulence controls. Relative survival among the various subgroups in the injection challenge suggests that adverse effects might have been associated with the adjuvant used in this study. The lowest survival at both injection challenge levels was among fish vaccinated with bacteria in adjuvant.