In lymphatic filariasis, specific IgG4 responses to the parasite and their relationship with infection have been studied extensively, but only a few studies have concentrated on anti-filarial and total IgE. Here we have investigated the role of filarial infection pressure on production of IgE by considering length of exposure (age), filarial endemicity and parasitological status. Antibody levels were determined in 366 individuals, who were resident in 3 villages in South-Sulawesi, Indonesia, with varying degrees of filarial transmission intensity, as indicated by the prevalence of Brugia malayi microfilaraemia (0·7%, 9% and 32%, respectively). Anti-filarial IgE levels were significantly lower in the low transmission village than in the areas with intermediate and high filarial transmission; however, in the latter village a remarkable suppression of specific IgE was found. Microfilaria-positive individuals showed elevated levels of total IgE, but suppression of specific IgE, which has been reported before. Taken together, these observations suggest that 2 opposing mechanisms regulate anti-parasite IgE expression: increasing experience of filarial infection stimulates specific IgE, but antibody levels become specifically suppressed when microfilariae or adult worms develop. Using a simple mathematical model, we illustrate how anti-filarial IgE increases with parasite antigen up to a threshold level, but levels off and becomes down-regulated after the threshold is exceeded.