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Recent genetic and molecular analyses have revealed how several strategies enable bacteria to persist and overcome insect immune defences. Genetic and genomic tools that can be used with Drosophila melanogaster have enabled the characterization of the pathways that are used by insects to detect bacterial invaders and combat infection. Conservation of bacterial virulence factors and insect immune repertoires indicates that there are common strategies of host invasion and pathogen eradication. Long-term interactions of bacteria with insects might ensure efficient dissemination of pathogens to other hosts, including humans.