Despite improvements in health care, the incidence of infective endocarditis has not decreased over the past decades. This apparent paradox is explained by a progressive evolution in risk factors; while classic predisposing conditions such as rheumatic heart disease have been all but eradicated, new risk factors for infective endocarditis have emerged. These include intravenous drug use, sclerotic valve disease in elderly patients, use of prosthetic valves, and nosocomial disease. Newly identified pathogens, which are difficult to cultivate--eg, Bartonella spp and Tropheryma whipplei--are present in selected individuals, and resistant organisms are challenging conventional antimicrobial therapy. Keeping up with these changes depends on a comprehensive approach, allying understanding of the pathogenesis of disease with the development of new drugs for infective endocarditis. Infection by staphylococci and streptococci is being dissected at the molecular level. New ideas for antimicrobial agents are being developed. These novel insights should help redefine preventive and therapeutic strategies against infective endocarditis.