Influenza A viruses are a major cause of mortality. Given the potential for future lethal pandemics, effective drugs are needed for the treatment of severe influenza such as that caused by H5N1 viruses.

Using mediator lipidomics and bioactive lipid screen, we report that the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA)-derived lipid mediator protectin D1 (PD1) markedly attenuated influenza virus replication via RNA export machinery.

Production of PD1 was suppressed during severe influenza and PD1 levels inversely correlated with the pathogenicity of H5N1 viruses. Suppression of PD1 was genetically mapped to 12/15-lipoxygenase activity. Importantly, PD1 treatment improved the survival and pathology of severe influenza in mice, even under conditions where known antiviral drugs fail to protect from death.

These results identify the endogenous lipid mediator PD1 as an innate suppressor of influenza virus replication that protects against lethal influenza virus infection.