Much can be learnt about the mechanisms by which micro-organisms cause disease from the ways that they interact with cells and tissues. This issue of The Journal of Pathology contains articles that address the roles that cell and tissue biology and pathology are playing in the elucidation of these mechanisms. A review of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is followed by a discussion of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Two articles on human papillomavirus (HPV) infection address the association between viral infection and neoplasia, as do reviews on viruses and lymphoma/leukaemia, and Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (human herpesvirus 8, HHV8). The section on viral disease concludes with an article on morbilli viruses. The intracellular effects of bacteria are addressed in a review of Listeria infection and a further review outlines recent advances in our knowledge of syphilis. Reviews on Helicobacter and gastric neoplasia, innate defences against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection, and the function of granulomas in tuberculosis also address aspects of tissue responses to bacterial infection. Following a review of the function of immunoglobulin A in defence against infection, a group of articles considers vaccination and gene therapy approaches, the latter involving consideration of both viral and bacterial strategies. The reviews assembled here bridge several gaps: between microbiology and cellular pathology; between host and infecting organism; and between disease and therapy. It is clear that cell and tissue pathology approaches are of value in all of these spheres, providing cell and tissue relevance to microbiological and immunological observations. Copyright (c) 2006 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.