Childhood anaemia in sub-Saharan Africa is often caused by Plasmodium falciparum malaria. The influence of subpatent, multi-species and polyclonal infections with malaria parasites on haematological parameters was assessed in 1996/97 in clinically healthy children in Nigeria. Of the 228 children studied, 64% were anaemic by the WHO age-dependent criteria. A univariate analysis of risk factors indicated that the prevalence of anaemia was dependent on the number of Plasmodium species detected by species-specific PCR (P < 0.0001). Furthermore, the prevalence of anaemia increased gradually with the complexity (P < 0.003) as well as with the extent of P. falciparum parasitaemia (P < 0.0001). A logistic regression analysis revealed that individuals with an enlarged spleen tended to be anaemic. The number of Plasmodium species by which an individual was infected was independently associated with anaemia (P < 0.03). ANOVA revealed that the age-corrected values for haemoglobin (Hb) and red blood cells (RBCs) were mainly influenced by the occurrence of mixed infections. Haematological parameters were also influenced by the number of different P. falciparum clones by which an individual was infected. Hb levels and RBC counts were further diminished by additional infections with P. malariae and/or P. ovale. However, the effect of multi-species infections on haematological parameters exceeded that of multi-clonal infections.