Interferon-β for Treatment of COVID-19: Subcutaneous Administration more Effective

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Results from the phase2 trial support the view that subcutaneous administration of IFN- β for treatment of COVID-19 enhances speed of recovery and reduces mortality.

The extraordinary situation presented by the COVID-19 pandemic has warranted exploring different possible avenues for the treatment of severe COVID-19 cases. Several new drugs are being tried and existing drugs being repurposed. Corticosteroids have already been found to be useful. Interferon therapy is already in use for viral infections like hepatitis. Can IFN be used against SARS CoV-2 in COVID-19?  

In preclinical trials earlier, IFN had proved to be effective against SARS CoV and MERS viruses. In July 2020, administration of Interferon-β through nebulisation (viz. pulmonary inhalation) route was reported to show promising results in treating severe COVID-19 cases based on data from phase 2 clinical trial 1,2.  

Now, the latest report based on data from phase 2 clinical trial conducted on 112 patients with COVID-19 hospitalized at Pitié-Salpêtrière in Paris, France suggests that administration of IFN- β through subcutaneous route enhances recovery rate and decreases mortality in COVID-19 cases 3.   

Interferons (IFN) are proteins secreted by the host cells in response to viral infections to signal the other cells for the presence of virus. The exaggerated inflammatory response in some of the COVID-19 patients is found to be associated with impaired IFN-1 response and blockade IFN-β secretion. It is used in China to treat viral pneumonia due to SARS CoV however its use is not standardised 4.  

The phase 3 clinical trial for use of Interferons (IFN) in treatment of severe COVID-19 patients is currently in progress. Approval will depend on whether the final results are within the acceptable range stipulated by the regulators.   

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Sources:   

  1. NHS 2020. News- Inhaled drug prevents COVID-19 patients getting worse in Southampton trial. Posted on 20 July 2020. Available online at https://www.uhs.nhs.uk/ClinicalResearchinSouthampton/Research/News-and-updates/Articles/Inhaled-drug-prevents-COVID-19-patients-getting-worse-in-Southampton-trial.aspx Accessed on 12 February 2021.  
  1. Monk PD., Marsden RJ., Tear VJ., et al., 2020. Safety and efficacy of inhaled nebulised interferon beta-1a (SNG001) for treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 2 trial. The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, Available online 12 November 2020. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30511-7 
  1. Dorgham K., Neumann AU., et al 2021. Considering personalized Interferon-β therapy for COVID-19. Antimicrobial Agents Chemotherapy. Posted Online 8 February 2021. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1128/AAC.00065-21  
  1. Mary A., Hénaut L., Macq PY., et al 2020. Rationale for COVID-19 Treatment by Nebulized Interferon-β-1b–Literature Review and Personal Preliminary Experience. Frontiers in Pharmacology., 30 November 2020. DOI:https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2020.592543.  

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