Sexual reproduction and recombination are essential for the survival of most eukaryotic populations. Until recently, the impact of these processes on the structure of bacterial populations has been largely overlooked. The advent of large-scale whole-genome sequencing and the concomitant development of molecular tools, such as microarray technology, facilitate the sensitive detection of recombination events in bacteria. These techniques are revealing that bacterial populations are comprised of isolates that show a surprisingly wide spectrum of genetic diversity at the DNA level. Our new awareness of this genetic diversity is increasing our understanding of population structures and of how these affect host pathogen relationships.