Immortalized cell lines, such as human cancer cell lines, are an indispensable experimental resource for many types of biological and medical research. However, unless the cell line has been authenticated prior to use, interpretation of experimental results may be problematic. The potential problems this may cause are illustrated by studies in which authentication of cell lines has not been carried out. For example, immortalized cell lines may unknowingly be infected with viruses that alter their characteristics. In fact, parainfluenza virus type 5 (PIV5) poses a threat to the use of immortalized cell lines in biological and medical research; PIV5 infection significantly alters cellular physiology associated with the response to interferon. If PIV5 infection is widespread in immortalized cell lines, then a very large number of published studies might have to be re-evaluated. Fortunately, analyses of a large number of immortalized cell lines indicate that PIV5 infection is not widespread.