Viruses that persist must develop strategies to escape immunologic surveillance in order to survive. Investigation of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV)-induced persistence has indicated that this virus avoids immune clearance mainly by aborting the viral specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) response, a response that is necessary for terminating viral infection. This study demonstrates that persistence established in immunologically immature newborns selectively depletes the LCMV-specific CTL response but does not hinder CTL responses to the RNA and DNA viruses influenza, vaccinia, or herpes simplex. In contrast, persistence established in immunologically mature adults leads not to selective but rather to generalized immunosuppression during which CTL responses to LCMV, influenza, vaccinia, and herpes simplex viruses are all ablated or down-regulated. These results indicate that the state of maturity of the immune system at the time of virus-induced immunosuppression can result in two distinct phenotypes. These observations may account for the differing patterns of infection caused by hepatitis B virus or human immunodeficiency virus initiated in the neonatal period compared to that initiated in adulthood.