The proliferative capability of many invasive pathogens is limited by the bioavailability of iron. Pathogens have thus developed strategies to obtain iron from their host organisms. In turn, host defense strategies have evolved to sequester iron from invasive pathogens. This review explores the mechanisms employed by bacterial pathogens to gain access to host iron sources, the role of iron in bacterial virulence, and iron-related genes required for the establishment or maintenance of infection. Host defenses to limit iron availability for bacterial growth during the acute-phase response and the consequences of iron overload conditions on susceptibility to bacterial infection are also examined. The evidence summarized herein demonstrates the importance of iron bioavailability in influencing the risk of infection and the ability of the host to clear the pathogen.