Bacteria exploit many mechanisms to communicate with each other and their surroundings. Mechanisms using small diffusible signals to coordinate behaviour with cell density (quorum sensing) frequently contribute to pathogenicity. However, pathogens must also be able to acquire nutrients and replicate to successfully invade their host. One quorum-sensing system, based on the possession of LuxS, bears the unique feature of contributing directly to metabolism, and therefore has the potential to influence both gene regulation and bacterial fitness. Here, we discuss the influence that LuxS and its product, autoinducer-2, have on virulence, relating the current evidence to the preferred niche of the pathogen and the underlying mechanisms involved.