Viral infections can have one of two outcomes: control of viral replication and acute infection or viral persistence and chronic infection. It is clear that both pathogen and host characteristics influence the acute versus chronic outcome of viral infection. The early events in the host immune response that favor immunosuppression and viral persistence, however, have remained poorly understood. Using the well-characterized mouse model of acute versus chronic lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection, two groups have recently identified the interleukin-10 (IL-10)/IL-10R pathway as a key regulator of acute versus chronic infection. Blockade of IL-10R converted a chronic LCMV infection into a rapidly controlled acute viral infection and prevented the functional exhaustion of memory T cells. These insights into the role of IL-10 in the establishment of chronic infection could lead to new therapeutic opportunities during human infections with pathogens such as HIV, hepatitis C virus (HCV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV).