Inflammation is an essential host defence against infection, but can be damaging when excessive. Resolution of inflammation is an active process, and the pro-resolution effects of lipoxins, resolvins and protectins have received significant interest.

Here, we review emerging data on the role of these lipid mediators in infectious disease. Lipoxins influence host control of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Toxoplasma gondii, Trypanosoma cruzi and Plasmodium berghei cerebral malaria in mice. Their effects are protective in toxoplasmosis, T. cruzi infection and cerebral malaria but detrimental in tuberculosis; related to the balance between pathogen-control and excessive immune response.

Topical lipoxin abrogates the tissue damage seen in a rabbit model of Porphyromonas gingivalis periodontitis. The increased virulence of H5N1 influenza A virus in mice correlates with reduced expression of SOCS2, required to mediate the effects of lipoxin. Mice unable to synthesize lipoxin suffer increased lung pathology during respiratory syncytial virus infection. Protectin suppresses influenza A virus replication in vitro and increases survival in a mouse model of severe influenza infection.

Resolvins were investigated in a number of animal models of systemic bacterial infection, and were found to enhance phagocytic clearance of bacteria, reduce inflammation severity, promote neutrophil apoptosis, modulate neutrophil chemotaxis and importantly, reduce mortality. Interestingly, resolvin also enhances the antibacterial effect of ciprofloxacin and vancomycin. Topical resolvin application reduces the severity of herpes simplex virus ocular infection in mice.

If the effects of these mediators translate from pre-clinical studies into successful clinical trials, they represent promising new strategies in managing infectious disease.