Multicellular organisms possess very sophisticated defense mechanisms that are designed to effectively counter the continual microbial insult of the environment within the vertebrate host. However, successful microbial pathogens have in turn evolved complex and efficient methods to overcome innate and adaptive immune mechanisms, which can result in disease or chronic infections. Although the various virulence strategies used by viral and bacterial pathogens are numerous, there are several general mechanisms that are used to subvert and exploit immune systems that are shared between these diverse microbial pathogens. The success of each pathogen is directly dependant on its ability to mount an effective anti-immune response within the infected host, which can ultimately result in acute disease, chronic infection, or pathogen clearance. In this review, we highlight and compare some of the many molecular mechanisms that bacterial and viral pathogens use to evade host immune defenses.