At the end of the nineteenth century, the field of microbiology was born, and the infectious nature of many previously unexplained diseases was illuminated as powerful new technology was applied. At the end of the twentieth century, the etiology of myriad chronic diseases remains unexplained. We have argued that many of these diseases have clinical, epidemiological, and pathological features that suggest a role for microbes in their pathogenesis. Although definitive evidence of microbial disease causation is lacking, we believe that new technologies, such as sequence-based microbial identification, will successfully be applied to many of these chronic idiopathic diseases in the near future. As novel pathogens and previously described pathogens are revealed as the causative agents for some of these conditions, new diagnostic, preventive, and therapeutic modalities may emerge, transforming some diseases from idiopathic and chronic, to infectious and curable.