The aim of this study was to assess the effects of Giardia muris on host growth and food intake, small intestinal morphometrics, mucosal enzyme activities, and brush border ultrastructure. Weanling mice infected with 1,000 G. muris cysts were compared to control and pair-fed sham-treated animals. Infection with G. muris resulted in decreased food intake and retarded growth. In infected animals, villus atrophy was observed in the duodenum throughout the study period and in the jejunum on days 8 and 50. On day 30, whereas jejunal architecture returned to normal in infected animals, malnourished pair-fed animals exhibited a compensatory increase in villus height. Sucrase and maltase were depressed in infected animals on days 2-24. On day 8 jejunal disaccharidases in pair-fed animals were also decreased but to a lesser extent than in infected animals. On day 24, disaccharidase values for control and infected mice were similar, whereas values in pair-fed animals were increased. On day 8, jejunal microvilli were shorter in infected animals than in control and pair-fed animals. This brush border injury was present throughout the jejunum and was also observed in pair-fed animals, but to a lesser extent. These findings suggest that G. muris retards growth in weanling mice, results in small intestinal injury, and interferes with the compensatory response to malnutrition of the infected host. Villus atrophy and brush border enzyme deficiencies associated with the disease mainly occur in the duodenum and jejunum, where trophozoites are most numerous. In infected and in pair-fed animals, the decrease in jejunal disaccharidase activities correlated with a diffuse shortening of brush border microvilli.