It is usually presumed that cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) stop viral replication by lysing infected cells before a full virus yield has been assembled. Unlike complement-mediated lysis, however, CTL induce apoptosis, including fragmentation of target cell DNA. Why should CTL do this? Here, Eric Martz and Donna Howell suggest that since the major function of CTL appears to be control of viruses, CTL may be able to halt viral replication without inducing rapid lysis. It may be more useful to think of CTL as virus control cells rather than as cytolytic cells.