There is no clear understanding of the outcome of reinfection in New World cutaneous leishmaniasis, and its role in the relationship to the development of protection or secondary disease. For this reason, reinfection experiments with homologous (Leishmania panamensis-L. panamensis) and heterologous (L. major-L. panamensis) species of leishmaniae were conducted in the hamster model. The different protocols for primary infections prior to the challenge with L. panamensis were as follows: (a) L. major, single promastigote injection, (b) L. major, three booster infections, (c) L. panamensis, followed by antimonial treatment to achieve subclinical infection, (d) L. panamensis, with active lesions, (by antimonial treatment to achieve subclinical infection, (d) L. panamensis, with active lesions, (e) sham infected, naive controls. Although all reinfected hamsters developed lesions upon challenge, animals with active primary lesions due to L. panamensis, and receiving booster infections of L. major had the most benign secondary lesions (58-91% and 69-76% smaller than controls, respectively, P < 0.05). Subclinically infected animals had intermediate lesions (40-64% smaller than controls, P < 0.05), while hamsters which received a single dose of L. major had no significant improvement over controls. Our results suggested that L. major could elicit a cross protective response to L. panamensis, and that the presence and number of amastigotes persisting after a primary infection may influence the clinical outcome of reinfections.