Infection with Plasmodium parasites (malaria) contributes greatly to morbidity and mortality in affected areas. Interaction of the protozoan with the immune system has a critical role in the pathogenesis of the disease, but may also hold a key to containing parasite numbers through specific immune responses, which vaccine development aims to harness. A central player in the generation of such immune responses is the dendritic cell. However, Plasmodium parasites appear to have profound activating and suppressing effects on dendritic cell function, which may enhance immunopathology or facilitate the parasite's survival by depressing beneficial immunity. Furthermore, immune responses to other infections and vaccines may be impaired. A greater understanding of the effects of the parasite on dendritic cells will contribute to insight and potential defeat of this infectious disease.