Passage of parasites and their antigens across the placenta occurs with metazoan as well as protozoan parasites, and this study addressed to which extent exposure to and infection of mothers with Plasmodium spp. and Entamoeba histolytica/dispar has sensitized their offspring for parasite-specific immune responses. While at delivery none of the mothers presented with an acute malaria attack, 42% were seropositive for P. falciparum. In half of the mothers cysts of E. histolytica/dispar were detected in stool specimen, 51% of them were found seropositive for E. histolytica, and E. histolytica-specific immunoglobulin A (IgA) responses were detected in neonates of seropositive mothers as well. Umbilical cord blood cells (UCBC) from neonates, when activated with the mitogen phytohaemagglutinine (PHA) and bacterial streptolysin O (SL-O), released significantly less interferon (IFN)-gamma, interleukin (IL)-10 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha into cell culture supernatants than peripheral blood cells (PBMC) of mothers. In response to Plasmodium- and Entamoeba-specific antigens UCBC and PBMC produced equal amounts of IL-1beta, TNF-alpha, IFN-gamma and IL-5, but PBMC from mothers secreted significantly more IL-10. Parasite-specific production of inflammatory and Th(1)- and Th(2)-type cytokines was similar in newborns of Plasmodium and Entamoeba seropositive and seronegative mothers. In summary, repeated exposure and subclinical infection of mothers with E. histolytica or P. falciparum will suffice to prime in utero their children for inflammatory and both Th(1)- and Th(2)-type cytokine responses, and such broad and mixed cytokine spectrum may be of advantage upon secondary parasite challenge in later life.