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From the article:
“Interferons are our first line of defence against any and all viruses - but viruses such as corona-viruses have co-evolved to very specifically block an interferon response … Treatment with interferon will override the inhibitory effects of the virus.”
Fish says that the research team considered IFN-α therapy for COVID-19 after they demonstrated interferons had therapeutic benefits during the SARS outbreak of 2002 and 2003.
In this study, the authors examined the course of disease in a cohort of 77 individuals with confirmed COVID-19 admitted to Union Hospital, Tongii Medical College, Wuhan, China, between January 16th and February 20th 2020. The individuals evaluated in this study consisted of only moderate cases of COVID-19, as none of the patients required intensive care or oxygen supple-mentation or intubation. The researchers demonstrated a significantly different rate of viral clearance for each treatment group and notably, IFN-α2b treatment accelerated viral clearance by approximately 7 days. Treatment with IFN-α2b, whether alone or in combination with ARB, accelerated viral clearance when compared to ARB treatment alone. IFN treatment was also demonstrated to significantly reduce circulating levels of IL-6 and CRP, whether alone or in combination with ARB.
Despite the study’s limitations of a small, non-randomised cohort, the work provides several important and novel insights into COVID-19 disease, notably that treatment with IFN-α2b accelerated viral clearance from the upper respiratory tract and also reduced circulating inflammatory biomarkers, hinting at functional connections between viral infection and host end-organ damage by limiting the subsequent inflammatory response in the lungs of patients.
As an uncontrolled, exploratory study, Fish says a randomized clinical trial is a crucial next step: “A clinical trial with a larger cohort of infected patients that are randomized to treatment with interferon-alpha or to a placebo would further this research”.
In the meantime, the findings from this study are the first to suggest therapeutic efficacy of IFN-α2b as an available antiviral intervention for COVID-19, which may also benefit public health measures by shortening the duration of viral clearance and therefore slowing the tide of the pandemic."