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Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is the often fatal sequelae of a broad range of precipitating conditions. Despite decades of intensive research and clinical trials there remain no therapies in routine clinical practice that target the dysregulated and overwhelming inflammatory response that characterises ARDS. Neutrophils play a central role in the initiation, propagation and resolution of this complex inflammatory environment by migrating into the lung and executing a variety of pro-inflammatory functions. These include degranulation with liberation of bactericidal proteins, release of cytokines and reactive oxygen species as well as production of neutrophil extracellular traps. While these functions are advantageous in clearing bacterial infection, the consequence of associated tissue damage, the contribution to worsening acute inflammation and prolonged neutrophil lifespan at sites of inflammation are deleterious. In this review, the importance of the neutrophil will be considered along with discussion of recent advances in understanding neutrophil function and the factors that influence them throughout the phases of inflammation in ARDS. From better understanding of neutrophils in this context potential therapeutic targets are identified and discussed. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.