Cowpox virus effectively inhibits inflammatory responses against viral infection in the chick embryo. This study demonstrates that one of the viral genes necessary for this inhibition, the crmA gene (a cytokine response modifier gene), encodes a serpin that is a specific inhibitor of the interleukin-1 beta converting enzyme. This serpin can prevent the proteolytic activation of interleukin-1 beta, thereby suppressing an interleukin-1 beta response to infection. However, the modification of this single cytokine response is not sufficient to inhibit inflammatory responses. This suggests that cowpox virus encodes several cytokine response modifiers that act together to inhibit the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines in response to infection. These viral countermeasures to host defenses against infection may contribute significantly to the pathology associated with poxvirus infections.