Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae are common causes of respiratory tract infections. H. influenzae attach to receptor epitopes in mucins and in epithelial cell membranes. Attachment is followed by an epithelial cell cytokine response. Secreted cytokines then initiate inflammation, upset the integrity of the mucosal barrier, and lead to disease. S. pneumoniae do not bind to mucins but attach to respiratory tract epithelial cells. Attachment is increased by viral infection of the epithelial cells. Unlike H. Influenzae, S. pneumoniae induce apoptosis in epithelial cells, thus disrupting the mucosal barrier. Attachment and persistence is counterbalanced by antiadhesive as well as bactericidal molecules in secretions such as human milk. These examples illustrate the balance between host defenses and microbial virulence as it has coevolved to maintain the health of the respiratory mucosa.