Several arenaviruses cause hemorrhagic fever (HF) in humans, and evidence indicates that the worldwide-distributed prototypic arenavirus lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) is a neglected human pathogen of clinical significance. Moreover, arenaviruses pose a biodefense threat. No licensed anti-arenavirus vaccines are available, and current anti-arenavirus therapy is limited to the use of ribavirin, which is only partially effective and is associated with anemia and other side effects. Therefore, it is important to develop effective vaccines and better antiviral drugs to combat the dual threats of naturally occurring and intentionally introduced arenavirus infections. The development of arenavirus reverse genetic systems is allowing investigators to conduct a detailed molecular characterization of the viral cis-acting signals and trans-acting factors that control each of the steps of the arenavirus life cycle, including RNA synthesis, packaging and budding. Knowledge derived from these studies is uncovering potential novel targets for therapeutic intervention, as well as facilitating the establishment of assays to identify and characterize candidate antiviral drugs capable of interfering with specific steps of the virus life cycle. Likewise, the ability to generate predetermined specific mutations within the arenavirus genome and analyze their phenotypic expression would significantly contribute to the elucidation of arenavirus-host interactions, including the basis of their ability to cause severe HF. This, in turn, could lead to the development of novel, potent and safe arenavirus vaccines.