As an animal model, rat schistosomiasis mansoni has provided considerable knowledge of immune mechanisms involved in the expulsion of worms and in a subsequent development of immunity to reinfection. Although it is clear that ADCC mechanisms participate in immunity to reinfection; the nature of the cytokines involved in immunity is unknown. To analyse the pattern of cytokines involved, the mRNA levels of different cytokines were assessed by RT-PCR as they occur within tissues during the course of infection. In spleens from infected rats, a significant elevation in IL-2 and IL-5 mRNA was observed during the early phase of infection (day 7). Analysis of pulmonary cytokine responses showed a dramatic increase in IL-4 and IL-5 on day 7. This was accompanied with a low but significant increase in IL-2 (day 11) and IL-12 (day 7) in the absence of augmented IFN-gamma expression. The cytokine expression patterns of draining lymph nodes (LN) from infected rats showed a significant increase of IL-2, IL-4 and IL-5 on day 21. Analysis of IL-10 expression showed exclusively a significant increase in LN on day 11, IFN-gamma mRNA was not detected in any tissue sample. Thus, rats develop a predominately Th2-type cytokine response during a primary infection which may be involved at least in part, in the expression of immunity against Schistosoma mansoni infection.