ISG15 is an interferon (IFN)-α/β-induced ubiquitin-like protein. It exists as a free molecule, intracellularly and extracellularly, and conjugated to target proteins. Studies in mice have demonstrated a role for Isg15 in antiviral immunity. By contrast, human ISG15 was shown to have critical immune functions, but not in antiviral immunity. Namely, free extracellular ISG15 is crucial in IFN-γ-dependent antimycobacterial immunity, while free intracellular ISG15 is crucial for USP18-mediated downregulation of IFN-α/β signalling. Here we describe ISG15-deficient patients who display no enhanced susceptibility to viruses in vivo, in stark contrast to Isg15-deficient mice. Furthermore, fibroblasts derived from ISG15-deficient patients display enhanced antiviral protection, and expression of ISG15 attenuates viral resistance to WT control levels. The species-specific gain-of-function in antiviral immunity observed in ISG15 deficiency is explained by the requirement of ISG15 to sustain USP18 levels in humans, a mechanism not operating in mice.