The large size and complexity of the human genome have limited the identification and functional characterization of components of the innate immune system that play a critical role in front-line defense against invading microorganisms. However, advances in genome analysis (including the development of comprehensive sets of informative genetic markers, improved physical mapping methods, and novel techniques for transcript identification) have reduced the obstacles to discovery of novel host resistance genes. Study of the genomic organization and content of widely divergent vertebrate species has shown a remarkable degree of evolutionary conservation and enables meaningful cross-species comparison and analysis of newly discovered genes. Application of comparative genomics to host resistance will rapidly expand our understanding of human immune defense by facilitating the translation of knowledge acquired through the study of model organisms. We review the rationale and resources for comparative genomic analysis and describe three examples of host resistance genes successfully identified by this approach.