Clonal deletion or clonal anergy establish tolerance in T cells that bear potentially autoreactive antigen receptors. Here we report that concomitant infection with the nematode Nippostrongylus brasiliensis breaks an established T-cell tolerance induced by injection of mice with Staphylococcus enterotoxin B (SEB). CD4+ T cells from SEB-tolerant mice did not produce either interleukin-2 or interleukin-4 when challenged in vitro with SEB. N. brasiliensis infection of SEB-primed animals resulted in a normal expansion of SEB-tolerant CD4+V beta 8+ T cells in vivo as well as an equivalent increase of SEB-reactive, interleukin-4-producing CD4+V beta 8+ T cells both in SEB-tolerant and in normal animals. Thus, infection with N. brasiliensis circumvented the tolerance established with SEB. Activation of anergic, potentially autoreactive CD4+ T cells by infectious agents seems to be a major pathway for the initiation of autoimmune diseases. Our results suggest that infectious agents may break tolerance in potentially autoreactive CD4+ T cells by activation of alternative reaction pathways.