Giardia lamblia is a ubiquitous parasite that causes diarrhoea. Effective control of Giardia infections in mice has been shown to involve IgA, T cells, mast cells and IL-6. We now show that Tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha) also plays an important role in the early control of giardiasis. Mice treated with neutralizing anti-TNFalpha antibodies or genetically deficient in TNFalpha were infected with the G. lamblia clone GS/(M)-H7. In both cases, mice lacking TNFalpha had much higher parasite numbers than controls during the first 2 weeks of infections. However, anti-parasite IgA levels, mast cell responses, and IL-4 and IL-6 mRNA levels do not appear significantly altered in the absence of TNFalpha. In addition, we show that mice infected with G. lamblia exhibit increased intestinal permeability, similar to human Giardia infection, and that this increase occurs in both wild-type and TNFalpha deficient mice. We conclude that TNFalpha is essential for host resistance to G. lamblia infection, and that it does not exert its effects through mechanisms previously implicated in control of this parasite.