Bacterial pathogens operate by attacking crucial intracellular pathways in their hosts. These pathogens usually target more than one intracellular pathway and often interact at several points in each of these pathways to commandeer them fully. Although different bacterial pathogens tend to exploit similar pathway components in the host, the way in which they 'hijack' host cells usually differs. Knowledge of how pathogens target distinct cytoskeletal components and immune-cell signalling pathways is rapidly advancing, together with the understanding of bacterial virulence at a molecular level. Studying how these bacterial pathogens subvert host-cell pathways is central to understanding infectious disease.