The course of infection in BALB/c mice of virulent Brucella abortus strain 2308 (S-2308) and attenuated strain 19 (S-19) varies markedly. Whereas S-19 is eliminated at an exponential rate beginning at 2 weeks post infection (p.i.), strain 2308 assumes a steady state or plateau during the first 6 weeks p.i. and thereafter is eliminated very slowly over a period exceeding 6 months. Here we compared the initiation and maintenance of inflammatory reactions in spleens and livers of mice infected with either of the two strains of B. abortus for the first 6 weeks p.i. Histological changes in the liver were similar in response to either strain and were characterized by the development of small granulomas and an influx of polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN) and monocytes. Tissue reactions in the spleen were similar at weeks 1 and 2 p.i. At 3 weeks p.i. and thereafter, focal granulomatous responses in S-2308-infected mice exceeded those in mice infected with S-19. Numbers of nonspecific esterase (NSE) positive mononuclear leukocytes in S-19-infected spleens had increased by 3 weeks p.i. and remained elevated. No comparable increase in NSE positive cells occurred in mice infected with S-2308, and numbers were significantly lower. At 4 weeks p.i. the influx of mature neutrophils and the intensity of extramedullary hematopoiesis were significantly greater in S-19-infected spleens. A profound depletion of periarteriolar lymphoid tissue was noted in both infections for the first 3 weeks p.i. However, repopulation of lymphoid sheaths in S-19-infected spleens became significantly greater by 4 weeks p.i. and continued to increase at significantly higher levels during the next 2 weeks. This study demonstrates quantitative differences in splenic inflammatory responses which are temporally related to the more rapid elimination of S-19. Based upon the lower susceptibility of strain 2308 to the protective effects of immune serum it is hypothesized that the different patterns of infection and inflammation displayed by the 2 strains may related to the differential capacities of antibody opsonized S-19 and S-2308 to survive in activated macrophages.