BackgroundSingle stranded ribonucleic acid (ssRNA) binds to toll-like receptor (TLR)7 leading to recruitment of immune cells and production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which has been shown in mammals. In chickens, synthetic ssRNA analog, resiquimod, has been shown to elicit antiviral response against infectious bursal disease virus infection. The objective of this study was to determine the innate host responses activated by the pre-hatch in ovo administration of resiquimod against infectious laryngotracheitis virus (ILTV) infection in chickens post-hatch.ResultsFirst, we observed that in ovo treatment of resiquimod at embryo day (ED) 18 increases macrophage recruitment in respiratory and gastrointestinal tissues of chicken day 1 post-hatch in addition to interleukin (IL)-1β in lungs. Second, we observed that in ovo treatment of resiquimod reduces ILTV cloacal shedding at 7 days post-infection (dpi) when challenged at day 1 post-hatch coinciding with higher macrophage recruitment. In vitro, we found that resiquimod enhances production of nitric oxide (NO) and IL-1β and not type 1 interferon (IFN) activity in avian macrophages. Although, the antiviral response against ILTV is associated with the enhanced innate immune response, it is not dependent on any of the innate immune mediators observed as has been shown in vitro using avian macrophage.ConclusionThis study provides insights into the mechanisms of antiviral response mediated by resiquimod, particularly against ILTV infection in chicken.