INTERFERON VERSUS CORONAVIRUS
September 5, 2020
According to the article on the immunity, the human body has the so-called innate immunity, which is known to neutralize alien and potentially dangerous agents, including pathogenic bacteria and viruses.
The most important component of this innate immunity is interferon protein. However, our own interferons are not always produced in sufficient quantities in the body. Therefore, sometimes it is necessary to support this process from the outside, especially during an epidemic.
The pneumonia epidemic caused by the new type of coronavirus 2019-nCoV has caused the WHO to declare the emergency regime. The world community is strenuously looking for a means to combat the new viral threat.
HISTORY OF CORONAVIRUS
This epidemic of the coronavirus infection is not the first one in history. Human coronavirus was first isolated in 1965. Since then, 39 types of coronavirus have been discovered, two of which cause severe respiratory infections in humans. These are SARS-CoV (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus) and MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus).
SARS-CoV caused the 2002/2003 epidemic, which spread to 33 countries. The total number of cases then amounted to over 7,000 people, for over 600 of them the disease was fatal. Infectious diseases caused by the MERS-CoV coronavirus have been reported in the Middle East since September 2012, according to WHO the mortality rate is about 35%.
In the midst of the SARS-CoV epidemic, in 2003, a study was conducted at the Russian Research Institute of Influenza to assess the virus-inhibiting effect of Grippferon®. As a result, data were obtained indicating that the drug has direct inhibitory activity against human coronavirus. When using the drug, the rate of virus reproduction was significantly reduced, which allowed considering Grippferon® (interferon alpha-2b) as one of the promising means of preventing and treating the coronavirus infection.
In treating that epidemic, interferon was also used by Swiss scientists. In case of using the drugs with recombinant interferon (obtained by artificial means), the ability of the attachment of coronavirus to the cell membranes decreased, which reduced the susceptibility to the infection. This feature of IFN became the basis for the recommendation of interferon as a means of infection prevention. Similar data were obtained in 2012 during the development of the MERS-CoV epidemic.
Unfortunately, the work on the study of SARS-CoV was than suspended. The pandemic backed down, and the organizations that sponsored it, pharmaceutical companies and scientists changed their focus towards other “more pressing” issues.
Nowadays more than 30 countries are working on the development of a coronavirus vaccine again. Usually, the development of a vaccine takes about 10 years, but in extreme conditions, this process is significantly accelerated. Now all the laboratories in the world are working to begin testing the vaccine in humans as soon as possible. However, it is unlikely that the first vaccine against this type of coronavirus will be released sooner than after a year and a half according to some specialists.
TREATMENT OF CORONAVIRUS WITH INTERFERON
According to WHO, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). However, the infected patients should be provided with the necessary medical care to alleviate and relieve symptoms, and appropriate supportive care should be provided to those with severe illnesses.
In addition to other drugs that we already wrote about earlier, interferon can help fight coronavirus. After analyzing the data on the treatment of patients with ARVI caused by SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation identified recombinant interferon alpha-2b as one of several etiotropic drugs that are recommended for use in complex therapy.
Interferon alfa-2b in the form of a spray (Grippferon®) can be used for the prevention of the coronavirus infection and at the first signs of the disease (fever, nasal stuffiness, sore throat) in age-related doses.
Some experts also recommend using Ingaron® solution for intranasal administration in non-specific prevention of coronavirus infection. According to clinical studies, after therapy with Ingaron® (2-3 drops 5 times a day for 5 days), 89.1% of cases show a decrease in the viral load according to laboratory diagnostics. Side effects are not recorded.
If the coronavirus infection is confirmed, interferon can be used in the form of injections. Interferon is used in combination with the antiviral drugs lopinavir and ritonavir, which are generally used for the treatment of HIV infection. These medicines are extremely toxic, so they are prescribed only under the supervision of a doctor and in a hospital setting.
However, one should not consider interferons as a universal remedy. First of all, some viruses can inhibit the formation of specific proteins inside infected cells, which significantly reduces the effectiveness of antiviral protection.
Secondly, this is only the first “line of defense”, which is known to stimulate other parts of the immune system and temporarily stop the advancement of the “enemy” into the body, giving time for the development of immune cells and antibodies.
Thirdly, the main mechanism of action of interferon is the suppression of virus development and division. In physiological doses, this effect controls the reproduction of viruses and tumor cells. But significant doses of a “foreign” substance may affect the body’s own tissues, first of all, blood cells.
Therefore, before starting the treatment with interferon drugs, you need to carefully study all pros and cons taken that all drugs have side effects and contraindications.