Virulence of a Toxoplasma gondii isolate from an AIDS patient (designated as PTN) was compared with that of PLK, a variant of P-strain. Virulence was assessed in term of host survival upon inoculation in different strains of mice. All C57BL/6 mice died of acute toxoplasmosis by 7-10 days following intraperitoneal infection with 1 x 105 tachyzoites of PTN and 40% of BALB/c died on day 23 of infection, whereas 100% CBA/J infected with the same dose of PTN survived, as did outbred Swiss Webster mice. All C57BL/6, BALB/c, CBA/J, or Swiss Webster died of acute toxoplasmosis by 3-9 days postinfection upon inoculation with same dose of tachyzoites of the PLK strain. Further studies in CBA/J mice demonstrated that mice infected with PTN elicited a significantly higher lymphoproliferative response to crosslinked anti-CD3 mAb or Con A than PLK infected mice, and augmented production of TNFalpha, lower levels of nitrite and a higher number of NK cells. Genetical analysis indicated that both PLK and PTN strains of T. gondii are from type ll. Interestingly, being of the same genotype, the later showed less virulence upon inoculation in mice and had greater capacity to activate host immune system than the PLK strain.