Infective endocarditis (IE) is a rare, life-threatening disease that has long-lasting effects even among patients who survive and are cured. IE disproportionately affects those with underlying structural heart disease and is increasingly associated with health care contact, particularly in patients who have intravascular prosthetic material. In the setting of bacteraemia with a pathogenic organism, an infected vegetation may form as the end result of complex interactions between invading microorganisms and the host immune system. Once established, IE can involve almost any organ system in the body. The diagnosis of IE may be difficult to establish and a strategy that combines clinical, microbiological and echocardiography results has been codified in the modified Duke criteria. In cases of blood culture-negative IE, the diagnosis may be especially challenging, and novel microbiological and imaging techniques have been developed to establish its presence. Once diagnosed, IE is best managed by a multidisciplinary team with expertise in infectious diseases, cardiology and cardiac surgery. Antibiotic prophylaxis for the prevention of IE remains controversial. Efforts to develop a vaccine that targets common bacterial causes of IE are ongoing, but have not yet yielded a commercially available product.