A preestablished infection with the parasitic helminth, Schistosoma mansoni, significantly reduced the incidence and delayed the onset of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in C57BL/6J mice immunized with myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG)(35-55) peptide. The altered disease progression was not solely due to the induction of a strong Th2 response, since intraperitoneal injection of schistosome eggs did not affect disease development. MOG-specific gamma interferon (IFN-gamma), nitric oxide, and tumor necrosis factor alpha production by splenocytes was significantly reduced in schistosome-infected mice compared to uninfected mice. However, similar levels of interleukin-10 (IL-10) were produced in an antigen-specific manner, suggesting that the induction of antigen-specific responses was not inhibited. Analysis of in vivo cytokine production by real-time PCR indicated that IL-12p40, but not IFN-gamma, transcript levels were dramatically reduced in the spinal cords of schistosome-infected, MOG-immunized mice. Furthermore, analysis of the cellular composition of the spinal cords and brains revealed that a preestablished infection with S. mansoni decreased central nervous system (CNS) inflammation, particularly of macrophages and CD4 T cells. These results suggest that schistosomiasis may negatively regulate the onset of EAE by downregulating the production of proinflammatory cytokines and altering CNS inflammation.