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Henry Ford Hospital Medical Journal

Abstract

Interferon, a natural and wide spectrum antiviral polypeptide that was discovered in 1957, has been extensively described. In addition to its antiviral effect, interferon has been found to suppress tumor growth and modulate the immune response. Until 1980, interferon was primarily prepared for clinical trials in human leukocytes derived from the buffy coat of whole blood. A major breakthrough occurred in the late 1970s when human interferon was produced by DNA recombinant methods in such heterologous cells as bacteria (genetic engineering). Interferon is not commercially available in 1984, but it may, based on clinical trials in humans, become part of combination therapy for certain cancers. It also holds promise for the treatment of chronic active hepatitis due to hepatitis B virus. Interferon has been effective in herpes virus-induced infections, suppressing reactivation episodes as well as the signs and symptoms of varicella-zoster virus infections. Prophylactically, but not therapeutically, interferon exerts a favorable effect on cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection; however, interferon trials are needed in catastrophic virus infections where no established (or effective) therapy exists. Prophylactic intranasal application of interferon was shown to suppress the symptoms of the common cold. The role of interferon treatment in the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and its associated opportunistic infections and/or Kaposi's sarcoma requires further study but shows promise, particularly for the latter.

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