The lifestyle of bacterial pathogens requires them to establish infection in the face of host immunity. Upon entering a potential host, a variety of interactions are initiated, the outcome of which depends upon a myriad of attributes of each of the participants. In this review we discuss the interactions that occur between pathogenic Salmonella species and the host immune systems, but when appropriate to broaden perspective, we have provided a general overview of the interactions between bacterial pathogens and animal hosts. Pathogenic Salmonella species possess an array of invasion genes that produce proteins secreted by a specialized type III secretion apparatus. These proteins are used by the bacteria to penetrate the intestinal mucosa by invading and destroying specialized epithelial M cells of the Peyer's patches. This maneuver deposits the bacteria directly within the confines of the reticuloendothelial system. The host responds to these actions with nonspecific phagocytic cells and an inflammatory response as well as by activating specific cellular and humoral immune responses. Salmonella responds to this show of force directly. It appears that the bacteria invade and establish a niche within the very cells that have been sent to destroy them. Efforts are underway to characterize the factors that allow these intracellular bacteria to customize intracellular vacuoles for their own purposes. It is the constant play between these interactions that determines the outcome of the host infection, and clearly they will also shape the evolution of new survival strategies for both the bacterium and the host.