We report that a peripheral injection of Escherichia coli produces both anterograde and retrograde amnesia in 24 month old, but not 3 month old rats for memories that depend on the hippocampus, that is, memory of context, contextual fear, and place learning. The anterograde effect was restricted to measures of long-term memory. Short-term memory was not affected, nor did E. coli produce amnesia for auditory-cue fear conditioning. There were no age related effects on memory in vehicle-treated rats. In addition to these age-related cognitive effects of E.coli, we report that it produced a marked increased in IL-1beta levels in the hippocampus, but not in parietal cortex or serum. These findings support the hypothesis that age is a vulnerability factor that increases the likelihood that an immune challenge will produce a cognitive impairment. It is possible that this cognitive vulnerability is mediated by age-related changes in the glial environment that results in an exaggerated brain pro-inflammatory response to infection.