To address the role of IL-11 in viral airways dysfunction, we determined whether infectious agents that exacerbate asthma stimulate stromal cell IL-11 production, determined whether IL-11 could be detected at sites of viral infection and evaluated the effects of IL-11 on airway physiology. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), parainfluenza virus type 3 (PIV3), and rhinovirus (RV) 14 were potent stimulators while cytomegalovirus and adenovirus only weakly stimulated and herpes simplex virus type 2 and bacteria did not stimulate IL-11 elaboration. IL-11 was not detected or barely detected in nasal aspirates from children without, but was detected in aspirates from children with viral upper respiratory tract infections. The levels of IL-11 were highest in patients with clinically detectable wheezing. IL-11 also caused nonspecific airways hyperresponsiveness in BALB/c mice. These studies demonstrate that three major causes of viral-induced asthma, RSV, RV, and PIV, in contrast to other viruses and bacteria, share the ability to induce stromal cell IL-11 production. They also demonstrate that IL-11 can be detected in vivo during viral respiratory infections, that the presence of IL-11 correlates with clinical bronchospasm and that IL-11 is a potent inducer of airways hyperresponsiveness. IL-11 may be an important mediator in viral airways disorders.