BACKGROUND: Strongyloides stercoralis can cause a wide spectrum of disease in man, ranging from a chronic asymptomatic infection to a hyperinfective, often fatal syndrome. In rodents, spontaneous expulsion of Strongyloides spp occurs after experimental infection. Mast cells, goblet cells, and eosinophils have been identified as possible effectors of this expulsion. AIMS: To investigate intestinal histopathology and mucosal immunity in immunocompetent patients with chronic S stercoralis infection. METHODS: Jejunal biopsies were performed in 19 immunocompetent patients with a positive stool examination for S stercoralis and few or no symptoms, and in seven healthy controls. Specimens were processed for histopathological analysis and stained by the immunoperoxidase technique, using the following monoclonal antibodies: CD2, CD3, CD4, CD8, anti-T cell receptor (TcR) gamma/delta, RFD1 and RFD7 (two different macrophage markers), Ki67+ (proliferating) cells, antihuman leucocyte antigen (HLA)-DR, and anticollagen IV. In addition, CD25+ cells, mast cells, IgE expressing cells, calprotectin containing cells, and neutrophil elastase positive cells were stained by the alkaline phosphatase method. RESULTS: Jejunal morphology and the numbers of different T cell subsets, mast cells, IgE expressing cells, eosinophils, and goblet cells were unaffected by S stercoralis infection. Conversely, the numbers of mature macrophages and dividing enterocytes in the crypts were reduced significantly. Crypt enterocytes did not express HLA-DR in both groups. The expression of HLA-DR by villus enterocytes was also comparable in patients and controls. There were no activated (CD25+) cells in the mucosa of either patients or controls. CONCLUSIONS: Compared with seven healthy uninfected volunteers, a group of 19 Brazilians with clinically mild strongyloides infection showed no abnormality of mucosal structure and no increase in non-specific inflammatory cells. Likewise, there was no increase in mucosal T cells or macrophages.