Predisposition to trichuriasis in mice is reflected in the inability of certain strains, or certain individuals within strains, to express protective immunity. Poor responders fail to expel worms and harbour chronic patent infections. The mechanisms underlying this phenomenon were studied in poor responder mice challenged after abbreviated or prolonged primary infections. Mice exposed to a complete primary infection were fully susceptible when challenged after the removal of the primary infection by anthelmintic. Failure to expel either infection suggests (a) that non-responsiveness to a primary infection does not reflect an inability to expel worms of a certain size, i.e. is not a consequence of the speed of the immune response in relation to parasite growth and (b) that non-responsiveness is long-lasting. Challenge after abbreviation of primary infections at different stages of worm development showed that persistence of larvae beyond day 21 was critical in determining poor response to reinfection. By inference the same conclusion can be drawn about the inability of such mice to expel primary infections. Serological analysis suggested a relationship between low antibody titres, restricted antigen recognition profiles and resistance to infection. It is suggested that the later stages of parasite development are immunosuppressive; the implications for human trichuriasis are discussed.