Abstract Since no randomized controlled trials have been conducted on the treatment of viral pneumonia by antivirals or immunomodulators in immunocompetent adults, a review of such anecdotal experience are needed for the more rational use of such agents. Case reports (single or case series) with details on their treatment and outcome in the English literature can be reviewed for pneumonia caused by human or avian influenza A virus (50 patients), varicella zoster virus (120), adenovirus (29), hantavirus (100) and SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV) (841). Even with steroid therapy alone, the mortality rate appeared to be lower when compared with conservative treatment for pneumonia caused by human influenza virus (12.5% vs. 42.1%) and hantavirus (13.3% vs. 63.4%). Combination of an effective antiviral, acyclovir, with steroid in the treatment of varicella zoster virus may be associated with a lower mortality than acyclovir alone (0% vs. 10.3%). Combination of interferon alfacon-1 plus steroid, or lopinavir/ritonavir, ribavirin plus steroid were associated with a better outcome than ribavirin plus steroid (0% vs. 2.3% vs. 7.7%, respectively). Combination of lopinavir/ritonavir plus ribavirin significantly reduced the virus load of SARS-CoV in nasopharyngeal, serum, stool and urine specimens taken between day 10 and 15 after symptom onset when compared with the historical control group treated with ribavirin. It appears that the combination of an effective antiviral and steroid was associated with a better outcome. Randomized therapeutic trial should be conducted to ascertain the relative usefulness of antiviral alone or in combination with steroid.