Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), caused by enterovirus A71 (EV-A71), presents mild to severe disease, and sometimes fatal neurological and respiratory manifestations. However, reasons for the severe pathogenesis remain undefined. To investigate this, infection and viral kinetics of EV-A71 isolates from clinical disease (mild, moderate and severe) from Sarawak, Malaysia, were characterised in human rhabdomyosarcoma (RD), neuroblastoma (SH-SY5Y) and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). High resolution transcriptomics was used to decipher EV-A71-host interactions in PBMCs. Ingenuity analyses revealed similar pathways triggered by all EV-A71 isolates, although the extent of activation varied. Importantly, several pathways were found to be specific to the severe isolate, including triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 1 (TREM-1) signalling. Depletion of TREM-1 in EV-A71-infected PBMCs with peptide LP17 resulted in decreased levels of pro-inflammatory genes for the moderate and severe isolates. Mechanistically, this is the first report describing the transcriptome profiles during EV-A71 infections in primary human cells, and the potential involvement of TREM-1 in the severe disease pathogenesis, thus providing new insights for future treatment targets.