The bacterium Piscirickettsia salmonis is the aetio- logical agent of piscirickettsiosis a severe disease that has caused major economic losses in the aquaculture industry since its appearance in 1989. Recent reports of P. salmonis or P. salmonis-like organisms in new fish hosts and geographical regions have increased interest in the bacterium. Because this gram-negative bacterium is still poorly understood, many relevant aspects of its life cycle, virulence and pathogenesis must be investigated before prophylactic procedures can be properly designed. The development of effective control strategies for the disease has been limited due to a lack of knowledge about the biology, intracellular growth, transmission and virulence of the organism. Piscirickettsiosis has been difficult to control; the failure of antibiotic treatment is common, and currently used vaccines show variable long-term efficacy. This review summarizes the biology and characteristics of the bacterium, including its virulence; the infective strategy of P. salmonis for survival and evasion of the host immune response; the host immune response to invasion by this pathogen; and newly described features of the pathology, pathogenesis, epidemiology and transmission. Current approaches to the prevention of and treatment for piscirickettsiosis are discussed.