The immune response to the malaria parasite is complex and poorly understood. Although antibodies and T cells can control parasite growth in model systems, natural immunity to malaria in regions of high endemicity takes several years to develop. Variation and polymorphism of antibody target antigens are known to impede immune responses, but these factors alone cannot account for the slow acquisition of immunity. In human and animal model systems, cell-mediated responses can control parasite growth effectively, but such responses are regulated by parasite load via direct effects on dendritic cells and possibly on T and B cells as well. Furthermore, high parasite load is associated with pathology, and cell-mediated responses may also harm the host. Inflammatory cytokines have been implicated in the pathogenesis of cerebral malaria, anemia, weight loss, and respiratory distress in malaria. Immunity without pathology requires rapid parasite clearance, effective regulation of the inflammatory anti-parasite effects of cellular responses, and the eventual development of a repertoire of antibodies effective against multiple strains. Data suggest that this may be hastened by exposure to malaria antigens in low dose, leading to augmented cellular immunity and rapid parasite clearance.