Stress modulates a variety of immune responses. We investigated the effects of immobilization stress on the pathogenesis of acute murine toxoplasmosis, an infection in which cell-mediated immunity is of major importance in host defense. Repetitive over-night immobilization beginning 3 days prior to infection enhanced (p < 0.05) the mortality of mice infected with a virulent strain (C56) of Toxoplasma gondii (77% vs 15% mortality in restrained and control mice, respectively). Daily immobilization for 14 days prior to infection abrogated (p < 0.05) the lethal effect of immobilization, suggesting an adaptive mechanism. To explore the effect of immobilization with a less virulent strain, the Me49 strain of T. gondii was studied. Acute infection with T. gondii Me49 resulted in anorexia and weight loss, while spleen size and respiratory burst activity of peritoneal exudate cells were enhanced (p < 0.01). Immobilization (twice daily for 2 h) did not significantly alter survival or other clinical features of acute T. gondii infection. In addition, immobilization suppressed (p < 0.05) phorbol myristate acetate-stimulated release of superoxide anion by peritoneal exudate cells in healthy naive mice, but not in infected mice. These findings indicate that immobilization stress can alter the pathogenesis of acute T. gondii infection in healthy mice, but the effect of this stress paradigm will be influenced, in part, by the timing of the immobilization and the virulence of the strain of T. gondii.