DNA can form several secondary structures besides the classic double helix: one that has received much attention in recent years is the G-quadruplex (G4). This is a stable four-stranded structure formed by the stacking of quartets of guanine bases. Recent work has convincingly shown that G4s can form in vivo as well as in vitro and can affect both replication and transcription of DNA. They also play important roles at G-rich telomeres. Now, a spate of exciting reports has begun to reveal roles for G4 structures in virulence processes in several important microbial pathogens of humans. Interestingly, these come from a range of kingdoms--bacteria and protozoa as well as viruses--and all facilitate immune evasion in different ways. In particular, roles for G4s have been posited in the antigenic variation systems of bacteria and protozoa, as well as in the silencing of at least two major human viruses, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Although antigenic variation and the silencing of latent viruses are quite distinct from one another, both are routes to immune evasion and the maintenance of chronic infections. Thus, highly disparate pathogens can use G4 motifs to control DNA/RNA dynamics in ways that are relevant to common virulence phenotypes. This review explores the evidence for G4 biology in such processes across a range of important human pathogens.