Strains of uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC) are the causative agents in the vast majority of all urinary tract infections. Upon entering the urinary tract, UPEC strains face a formidable array of host defenses, including the flow of urine and a panoply of antimicrobial factors. To gain an initial foothold within the bladder, most UPEC strains encode filamentous surface adhesive organelles called type 1 pili that can mediate bacterial attachment to, and invasion of, bladder epithelial cells. Invasion provides UPEC with a protective environment in which bacteria can either replicate or persist in a quiescent state. Infection with type 1-piliated E. coli can trigger a number of host responses, including cytokine production, inflammation, and the exfoliation of infected bladder epithelial cells. Despite numerous host defenses and even antibiotic treatments that can effectively sterilize the urine, recent studies demonstrate that uropathogens can persist within the bladder tissue. These bacteria may serve as a reservoir for recurrent infections, a common problem affecting millions each year.