A characteristic of the arenaviruses is persistent infections in their natural host. Age at infection is an important factor in the establishment of persistence. Infections early in life regularly result in persistence and this appears to be related to the immaturity of the immune system. Persistently infected animals make antibodies to the viral antigens, which indicates that the animals are not tolerant with respect to B cell functions. However, cytotoxic T cells cannot be demonstrated in persistently infected animals, suggesting a defect in effector T cell functions. The mechanisms leading to this defect in cytotoxic T cells have not been resolved. Persistence of arenaviruses in cell cultures is also regularly observed but the molecular basis for survival of the virus and cell in long-term cultures has yet to be clarified.