Recent in vivo studies indicate that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) may have beneficial effects in the treatment of sepsis induced by bacterial infection. Administration of MSCs in these studies improved survival and enhanced bacterial clearance. The primary objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that human MSCs possessed intrinsic antimicrobial properties. We studied the effect of human MSCs derived from bone marrow on the bacterial growth of Gram-negative (Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa) and Gram-positive (Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria. MSCs as well as their conditioned medium (CM) demonstrated marked inhibition of bacterial growth in comparison with control medium or normal human lung fibroblasts (NHLF). Analysis of expression of major antimicrobial peptides indicated that one of the factors responsible for the antimicrobial activity of MSC CM against Gram-negative bacteria was the human cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide, hCAP-18/LL-37. Both m-RNA and protein expression data showed that the expression of LL-37 in MSCs increased after bacterial challenge. Using an in vivo mouse model of E. coli pneumonia, intratracheal administration of MSCs reduced bacterial growth (in colony-forming unit) in the lung homogenates and in the bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid, and administration of MSCs simultaneously with a neutralizing antibody to LL-37 resulted in a decrease in bacterial clearance. In addition, the BAL itself from MSC-treated mice had a greater antimicrobial activity in comparison with the BAL of phosphate buffered saline (PBS)-treated mice. Human bone marrow-derived MSCs possess direct antimicrobial activity, which is mediated in part by the secretion of human cathelicidin hCAP-18/ LL-37.