Staphyllococcus aureus-induced infections often result in high mortality and permanent joint destruction, despite treatment with antibiotics. IL-10 is typically regarded as an anti-inflammatory cytokine because it promotes a T helper cell type 2 response, and subsequently down-regulates cell mediated immune functions. To investigate the role of IL-10 in S. aureus-induced arthritis and sepsis, Balb/c mice, intact or defective with respect to IL-10 gene were intravenously inoculated with bacteria. IL-10/ mice develop a more frequent and destructive arthritis compared to their congeneic controls. The mechanisms regulating such outcome may be due not only to the anti-inflammatory properties of IL-10 but also, directly or indirectly, to antibacterial features of this molecule. Indeed, inoculation of staphylococci to IL-10/ mice resulted in higher bacterial load in blood and kidneys compared to congeneic controls. Altogether our data indicate that IL-10 is essential for efficient elimination of bacteria and thereby for protection against septic arthritis.