FRIDAY, May 15, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Interferon (IFN)-α2b therapy seems to shorten the duration of viral shedding in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, according to a study published online May 15 in Frontiers in Immunology.

Qiong Zhou, M.D., Ph.D., from the Union Hospital Tongji Medical College and Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, and colleagues describe the effects of treatment with IFN-α2b in a cohort of 77 adults hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19. Patients were treated with nebulized IFN-α2b, umifenovir (Arbidol; currently only used in Russia and China) or a combination of IFN-α2b plus umifenovir. For each patient, serial severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 testing along with hematological measurements, temperature, and blood saturation levels were recorded during their hospital stay.

The researchers found that the duration of detectable virus in the upper respiratory tract was significantly reduced with treatment with IFN-α2b with or without umifenovir; in parallel, the duration of elevated blood levels for the inflammatory markers interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein were reduced.

“To our knowledge, the findings presented here are the first to suggest therapeutic efficacy in COVID-19 disease of IFN-α2b, an available antiviral intervention,” the authors write. “Beyond clinical benefit to the individual patient, treatment with IFN-α2b may also benefit public health measures aimed at slowing the tide of this pandemic, in that duration of viral shedding appears shortened.”

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