The mechanism for the pathogenesis of H5N1 infection in humans remains unclear. This study reveals that cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) was strongly induced in H5N1-infected macrophages in vitro and in epithelial cells of lung tissue samples obtained during autopsy of patients who died of H5N1 disease. Novel findings demonstrated that COX-2, along with tumor necrosis factor alpha and other proinflammatory cytokines were hyperinduced in epithelial cells by secretory factors from H5N1-infected macrophages in vitro. This amplification of the proinflammatory response is rapid, and the effects elicited by the H5N1-triggered proinflammatory cascade are broader than those arising from direct viral infection. Furthermore, selective COX-2 inhibitors suppress the hyperinduction of cytokines in the proinflammatory cascade, indicating a regulatory role for COX-2 in the H5N1-hyperinduced host proinflammatory cascade. These data provide a basis for the possible development of novel therapeutic interventions for the treatment of H5N1 disease, as adjuncts to antiviral drugs.