Viral infections of poultry can be catastrophic in terms of both welfare and economics, and although vaccines have been very successful in combating these diseases, new forms of viruses have evolved which present increasing difficulties for vaccine control. Differences in genetic susceptibility are known to exist for many of the major viral pathogens of poultry. Consequently, an increase in the level of genetic resistance provides a possible means of enhancing protection of flocks. This is particularly feasible where specific resistance genes have been identified, as in the case of avian leukosis and Marek's disease, and the development of genetic maps of the chicken has offered new possibilities for the identification of further resistance genes. It has also become clear that there are genetic differences in the response to live attenuated vaccine viruses, and new possibilities exist to manipulate the genetics of host flocks so that the effect of vaccination can be optimised.