Viruses cause a wide range of human diseases, ranging from acute self-resolving conditions to acute fatal diseases. Effects that arise long after the primary infection can also increase the propensity for chronic conditions or lead to the development of cancer. Recent advances in the fields of virology and pathology have been fundamental in improving our understanding of viral pathogenesis, in providing improved vaccination strategies and in developing newer, more effective treatments for patients worldwide. The reviews assembled here focus on the interface between virology and pathology and encompass aspects of both the clinical pathology of viral disease and the underlying disease mechanisms. Articles on emerging diseases caused by Ebola virus, Marburg virus, coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS, Nipah virus and noroviruses are followed by reviews of enteroviruses, HIV infection, measles, mumps, human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza, cytomegalovirus (CMV) and varicella zoster virus (VZV). The issue concludes with a series of articles reviewing the relationship between viruses and cancer, including the role played by Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) in the pathogenesis of lymphoma and carcinoma; how human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are involved in the development of skin cancer; the involvement of hepatitis B virus infection in hepatocellular carcinoma; and the mechanisms by which Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) leads to Kaposi’s sarcoma. We hope that this collection of articles will be of interest to a wide range of scientists and clinicians at a time when there is a renaissance in the appreciation of the power of pathology as virologists dissect the processes of disease.