The aim of the present study was to determine whether an increase in resting energy expenditure (REE) contributes to the impaired nutritional status of Gambian children infected by a low level of infection with pathogenic helminths. The REE of 24 children infected with hookworm, Ascaris, Strongyloides, or Trichuris (mean +/- SEM age = 11.9 +/- 0.1 years) and eight controls without infection (mean +/- SEM age = 11.8 +/- 0.1 years) were measured by indirect calorimetry with a hood system (test A). This measurement was repeated after treatment with 400 mg of albendazole (patients) or a placebo (controls) (test B). When normalized for fat free mass, REE in test A was not different in the patients (177 +/- 2 kJ/kg x day) and in the controls (164 +/- 7 kJ/kg x day); furthermore, REE did not change significantly after treatment in the patients (173 +/- 3 kJ/kg x day) or in the controls (160 +/- 8 kJ/kg x day). There was no significant difference in the respiratory quotient between patients and controls, nor between tests A and B. It is concluded that a low level of helminth infection does not affect significantly the energy metabolism of Gambian children.