Immune memory responses to previously encountered pathogens can sometimes alter the immune response to and the course of infection of an unrelated pathogen by a process known as heterologous immunity. This response can lead to enhanced or diminished protective immunity and altered immunopathology. Here, we discuss the nature of T-cell cross-reactivity and describe matrices of epitopes from different viruses eliciting cross-reactive CD8(+) T-cell responses. We examine the parameters of heterologous immunity mediated by these cross-reactive T cells during viral infections in mice and humans. We show that heterologous immunity can disrupt T-cell memory pools, alter the complexity of the T-cell repertoire, change patterns of T-cell immunodominance, lead to the selection of viral epitope-escape variants, alter the pathogenesis of viral infections, and, by virtue of the private specificity of T-cell repertoires within individuals, contribute to dramatic variations in viral disease. We propose that heterologous immunity is an important factor in resistance to and variations of human viral infections and that issues of heterologous immunity should be considered in the design of vaccines.