Over the past few years there have been an increasing number of research articles published in Thorax on respiratory tract infections (including tuberculosis) affecting children and adults. Although these articles cover a wide variety of areas, several broad themes can be discerned. These include greater interest in viral respiratory infections (partially stimulated by the recent influenza A pandemic), improved characterisation of who is at risk of community-acquired pneumonia and mycobacterial infection, research into better diagnostics and attempts to develop new or improved scoring scales for a range of respiratory infection syndromes. There have also been a limited number of articles on how to manage patients with respiratory infection, including describing the efficacy of prevention by vaccination. Overall, there has been a discernible emphasis on transferring advances in clinical science to actual clinical practice, with several papers using molecular methodologies or measuring levels of cytokines or other potential biomarkers to improve diagnostic accuracy in patients with lung infection. There have also been manuscripts linking specific pathogen genotypes to infection phenotype, an area that is likely to be increasingly important in explaining some of the variations in severity between patients with respiratory infection. However, many questions remain on the optimum strategies for the management and prevention of pneumonia, bronchiectasis and tuberculosis, and there remains a strong need for further clinical research in order to make substantial improvements in the management of patients with lung infection.