A major difficulty in understanding the epidemiology of human schistosomiasis has been to distinguish between acquired immunity and reduced exposure as possible reasons for an observed decline, in older individuals, of levels of superinfection or of reinfection after chemotherapy. A series of studies of Schistosoma mansoni infections in Kenya has been undertaken to approach this problem, by investigation of intensities of reinfection after treatment of individuals whose levels of contact with contaminated water is subsequently observed. Intensities of reinfection are highest among younger children, thereafter declining sharply. This decline can be attributed only in part to age-related changes in the duration and nature of exposure; there is also evidence for the development of an acquired resistance to reinfection that is dependent both on age and on previous experience of infection, and that may be immunologically mediated. Evidence has been obtained that the slow development of this acquired immunity with age may be associated with the early development and subsequent slow decline of inappropriate immune responses that `block' the effect of potentially protective responses. Implications of these findings for immunological intervention through vaccination are discussed.