Trypanosoma cruzi, the protozoan parasite that causes Chagas' disease, does not synthesize sialic acid, but expresses a trans-sialidase that catalyses the transfer of sialic acid from host glycoconjugates to the parasite surface. Several lines of evidence suggest that this enzyme is a virulence factor implicated in the establishment of infection. Here we studied whether immunization with a plasmid DNA containing a gene encoding for the catalytic domain of the enzyme could elicit protective immunity against T. cruzi infection in mice. We observed that immunization with this plasmid DNA generated antibody and T-cell mediated immune responses. Antibodies recognized the native enzyme and inhibited its activity in vitro. Upon challenge with bloodstream trypomastigotes, immunized animals displayed reduced parasitemia and mortality.