Homozygous mutant scid/scid (severe combined immunodeficiency) mice (referred to as scid mice) lack both specific humoral and cell-mediated immune functions and are exemplary in vivo models for analysis of host-parasite relationships. In our colony, scid mice routinely and predictably develop spontaneous Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) with high morbidity. Previous studies have identified both T cells (specifically, CD4+ cells) and antibody as independent mechanisms of effective anti-P. carinii resistance; however, CD4+ T cells also cause an often fatal hyperinflammatory reaction. The current study has explored the optimal application of these immune components for conferring protection against P. carinii. Anti-P. carinii hyperimmune serum was highly effective at reducing the number of P. carinii organisms in early, intermediate, and advanced stages of PCP and was capable of increasing the mean life expectancy of P. carinii-infected scid mice by more than threefold if provided on a continuing basis. When a short course of hyperimmune-serum therapy was provided prior to transfer of P. carinii-sensitized normal lymphocytes, scid mice were rendered permanently free of P. carinii without the pathological sequelae of the hyperinflammatory reaction. These findings are discussed in the contexts of mechanism and clinical relevance.