Summary Onchocercal nodules were stained immunohistochemically using antibodies specific for human mast cells and IgE to elucidate the localization and frequency of mast cells after a single oral dose of 150 μg/kg ivermectin. Tryptase-and chymase-positive mast cells occurred predominantly in mixed inflammatory infiltrates and perivascularly, and never adhered to adult worms or microfilariae. Up to three days after ivermectin, mast cells and IgE-positive cells were markedly increased in the capsular area of nodules containing female worms with embryos and microfilariae compared to untreated nodules. In the centre of these nodules, around the adult Onchocerca volvulus, we found many tryptase-positive cells. More mast cells were IgE-positive than in untreated nodules, equalling the number of tryptase-positive mast cells. There was a clear correlation between the appearance of mast cells and the attacks on damaged microfilariae by eosinophils and macrophages and in the vicinity of adult worms by neutrophils that occur soon after ivermectin treatment. Onchocercomata harbouring female worms with oocytes only revealed, after all treatment intervals, the same mast cell numbers as untreated nodules. In conclusion, during the first three days after administration, ivermectin produces increased numbers of mast cells in nodules harbouring females with embryos and microfilariae, probably as part of an allergic reaction to the attacked microfilariae. Four to 19 days after ivermectin the number of mast cells in the entire nodule is no longer elevated.