Anti-immunology: evasion of the host immune system by bacterial and viral pathogens

Cell. 2006 Feb 24;124(4):767-82. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2006.01.034.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigenic Variation
  • Bacterial Infections / immunology*
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Cell Death
  • Complement System Proteins / immunology
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • DNA Virus Infections / immunology*
  • DNA Virus Infections / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Immunologic Surveillance
  • Models, Biological
  • Phagocytes / immunology
  • RNA Virus Infections / immunology*
  • RNA Virus Infections / pathology
  • Virulence Factors
  • Virus Physiological Phenomena*


  • Cytokines
  • Virulence Factors
  • Complement System Proteins