Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. The major bacterial cause of COPD exacerbations is non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi). 25 to over 80% of cases are associated with NTHi. This susceptibility to infection involves a defective production of interleukin (IL)-22 which plays an important role in mucosal defense. Prophylactic administration of flagellin, a Toll-like receptor 5 (TLR5) agonist, protects healthy mice against respiratory pathogenic bacteria. We hypothesized that TLR5-mediated stimulation of lung immunity might prevent COPD exacerbations. Mice chronically exposed to cigarette smoke (CS), which presented COPD symptoms, were infected with NTHi and intraperitoneally treated with recombinant flagellin following a prophylactic or therapeutic protocol. Compared with control, cigarette smoke-exposed mice treated with flagellin showed a lower bacterial load in the airways, the lungs and the blood. This protection was associated with an early neutrophilia, a lower production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and an increased IL-22 production. Flagellin treatment decreased the recruitment of inflammatory cells and the lung damages related to exacerbation. Morover, the protective effect of flagellin against NTHi was altered by treatment with anti-IL-22 blocking antibodies in cigarette smoke-exposed mice and in Il22.sup.-/- mice. The effect of flagellin treatment did not implicated the anti-bacterial peptides calgranulins and defensin-[beta]2. This study shows that stimulation of innate immunity by a TLR5 ligand is a potent antibacterial treatment in CS-exposed mice, suggesting innovative therapeutic strategies against acute exacerbation in COPD.