The diverging of T-helper (Th) cells into predominantly Th1 and Th2 subsets on the basis of their cytokine profiles has decisively improved our understanding of the pathogenesis of many chronic infectious diseases. Recent data suggest that the presence of interferon-gamma and the subsequent suppression of interleukin-4 production leads to a Th1-type response that is required for the resolution of infections caused by intracellular pathogens. The ability of the macrophages to respond aggressively during early antigen contact seems to be one crucial factor in the development of an appropriate Th-cell response. Several host-related factors can affect macrophage function and the polarization of T-cell responses, ie the shift from a Th1 response to a Th2 one, and thus dramatically deteriorate the resolution of infections caused by intracellular agents such as Chlamydia pneumoniae. Chronic C. pneumoniae infection has been associated with several common chronic diseases, quite recently with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Chronic C. pneumoniae infection may amplify smoking-associated inflammation in the bronchi and may be a contributory factor in the development of irreversible pathological changes.