Although bacterial superinfection in viral respiratory disease is a clinically well documented phenomenon, the pathogenic mechanisms are still poorly understood. Recent studies have revealed some of the mechanisms involved. Physical damage to respiratory cells as a result of viral infection may lead to opportunistic adherence of bacteria. Enhanced bacterial adherence by specific mechanisms has been documented for respiratory cells infected with influenza A virus, respiratory syncytial virus and adenovirus in both in vitro and in vivo models. To date, results of various experimental studies indicate that different mechanisms for increased bacterial adherence induced by viruses are operating for specific viral-bacterial combinations. In the present review, a number of key findings obtained during the past two decades is presented and discussed.