Interferons (IFNs) are cytokines that are important for immune responses, particularly to intracellular pathogens. They are divided into two structurally and functionally distinct types that interact with different cell-surface receptors. Classically, type I IFNs are potent antiviral immunoregulators, whereas the type II IFN enhances antibacterial immunity. However, as outlined here, type I IFNs are also produced in response to infection with other pathogens, and an increasing body of work shows that type I IFNs have an important role in the host response to bacterial infection. Strikingly, their activity can be either favourable or detrimental, and can influence various immune effector mechanisms.