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IL-18 is protective against Enterovirus 71 (EV71) challenge in vivo.Mice deficient for IL-18 are more susceptible to EV71 infection.Administration of recombinant IL-18 restrained EV71 infection in IL-18 deficient mice.IL-18 can be therapeutic for EV71 associated hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD).Previous study has demonstrated that the NLRP3 inflammasome is essential for protecting murine host against Enterovirus 71 (EV71) infection. However, the underlying mechanism remained unknown. Here we discovered that the pleiotropic cytokine interleukin-18 (IL-18), an NLRP3 inflammasome-dependent effector protein, exhibits a protective capability against EV71 challenge. Deficiency of IL-18 in mice exacerbated EV71 infection, which was reflected by increased viral replication, elevated production of interferons (IFN-β, IFN-γ), proinflammatory cytokines (TNF-α, IL-6) and chemokine CCL2, as well as decreased survival of experimental animals. Conversely, administration of recombinant IL-18 considerably restrained EV71 infection in IL-18 deficient mice. Thus, our results revealed a protective role for IL-18 against EV71 challenge, and indicated a novel therapeutic application for IL-18 in EV71 associated hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD).