Due to its small size, rapid generation time, powerful genetic systems, and genomic resources, the zebrafish has emerged as an important model of vertebrate development and human disease. Its well-developed adaptive and innate cellular immune systems make the zebrafish an ideal model for the study of infectious diseases. With a natural and important pathogen of fish, Streptococcus iniae, we have established a streptococcus-zebrafish model of bacterial pathogenesis. Following injection into the dorsal muscle, zebrafish developed a lethal infection, with a 50% lethal dose of 103 CFU, and died within 2 to 3 days. The pathogenesis of infection resembled that of S. iniae in farmed fish populations and that of several important human streptococcal diseases and was characterized by an initial focal necrotic lesion that rapidly progressed to invasion of the pathogen into all major organ systems, including the brain. Zebrafish were also susceptible to infection by the human pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes. However, disease was characterized by a marked absence of inflammation, large numbers of extracellular streptococci in the dorsal muscle, and extensive myonecrosis that occurred far in advance of any systemic invasion. The genetic systems available for streptococci, including a novel method of mutagenesis which targets genes whose products are exported, were used to identify several mutants attenuated for virulence in zebrafish. This combination of a genetically amenable pathogen with a well-defined vertebrate host makes the streptococcus-zebrafish model of bacterial pathogenesis a powerful model for analysis of infectious disease.