Paracoccidioides brasiliensis, the causative agent of paracoccidioidomycosis (PCM), was first isolated from armadillos from the Amazonian region where the mycosis is uncommon. In the present study, we report on the high incidence of PCM infection in armadillos from a hyperendemic region of the disease. Four nine-banded armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus) were captured in the endemic area of Botucatu, Sao Paulo, Brazil, killed by manual cervical dislocation and autopsied under sterile conditions. Fragments of lung, spleen, liver, and mesenteric lymph nodes were processed for histology, cultured on Mycosel agar at 37 degrees C, and homogenized for inoculation into the testis and peritoneum of hamsters. The animals were killed from week 6 to week 20 postinoculation and fragments of liver, lung, spleen, testis, and lymph nodes were cultured on brain heart infusion agar at 37 degrees C. Paracoccidioides brasiliensis was isolated from three armadillos both by direct organ culture and from the liver, spleen, lung, and mesenteric lymph nodes of hamsters. In addition, one positive armadillo presented histologically proven PCM disease in a mesenteric lymph node. The three armadillos isolates (Pb-A1, Pb-A2, and Pb-A4) presented thermodependent dimorphism, urease activity, and casein assimilation, showed amplification of the gp43 gene, and were highly virulent in intratesticularly inoculated hamsters. The isolates expressed the gp43 glycoprotein, the immunodominant antigen of the fungus, and reacted with a pool of sera from PCM patients. Taken together, the present data confirm that armadillos are a natural reservoir of P. brasiliensis and demonstrate that the animal is a sylvan host to the fungus.