Interferon Alpha-2B is one of the 30 drugs chosen by China to counter the epidemic caused by the new coronavirus COVID-19.
Although it cannot be considered a cure, this drug could be a preventive solution and an effective treatment for the early stages of coronavirus infection.
If this is the first time you’ve heard the word interferon, read on to find out what it is and what its possible effects are against COVID-19.
What is Interferon Alpha 2B?
Interferons are a group of proteins produced naturally by cells of the immune system. They occur in response to infection by pathogenic viruses or bacteria.
Interferons are named for their ability to “interfere” with viral replication. (8)
Interferons do not directly kill viral cells but instead stimulate the immune system response and reduce the growth of damaged cells. Adding an extra amount of interferons can help the body fight infections from viruses, cancer, and other diseases.
Interferon Alfa2-2B is a drug with a high concentration of interferons; it can be administered in injectable form or through a nebulizer.
The antiviral effects of interferon-alpha 2B have been scientifically proven. Its products are to prevent viruses from replicating and to improve the immune response at the beginning of the infection. (3)
Types and functions of interferons
The interferons produced by human cells have been divided into three groups: alpha, beta, and gamma.
Alpha and beta-type interferons have broad-spectrum antiviral activity, demonstrating clinical efficacy against HBV, HCV, influenza A, and SARS-CoV viruses. (6).
The production of interferon-beta occurs as the first nonspecific response to viral infection. (7)
The combination of alpha and beta interferons is also used to treat different types of cancer such as skin, bladder, kidney, and blood. As well as it is used as a treatment for multiple sclerosis, hepatitis B, C, and HIV. (5)
Interferons have as main functions:
- Prevent viruses from replicating (since they activate the production of molecules that inhibit viral replication)
- Activate the action of other immune cells to kill virus-infected cells, bacteria cells, or tumor cells.
Interferon alpha-2B and coronavirus
Little is known about the effects of interferon alfa-2B against the new coronavirus.
However, its mechanism of action is known as a treatment against other viral infections; in particular, it has been used when no specific therapies are available.
According to previous studies with SARS, interferon alfa-2b can directly affect the adaptive immune response. This is associated with positive results in an acute viral infection. (6)
Interferon is known to stimulate genes that produce enzymes responsible for destroying the RNA of some viruses. SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA virus. Therefore, supplying interferon alfa-2B seems logical to combat this virus.
However, the antibody response and the complete mechanism of action of interferon-alpha 2b are still unclear.
Viruses may use IFN-β for their purposes. (4) This is one of the reasons why scientists are careful before using it as a treatment on a large scale.
Also, some clinical studies have confirmed that it can cause mild to severe side effects in some patients. (5)
Interferon Alpha 2B is not the coronavirus cure. But it could be an effective treatment of the disease in its early stages, especially as a prevention method.
Cuban Interferon Alpha 2B was used in China to treat COVID-19.
Interferon-alpha 2B has been produced in Cuba since 1896. In 2020, it was made using Cuban technology at the Chang Heber plant. It was used by Chinese doctors as a treatment for the coronavirus, with positive recovery results in more than 1500 patients. (8)
The Cuban drug Interferon Alpha 2B has been described by specialists in China as the most effective medicine against the new coronavirus.
On his Twitter account, the president of Cuba wrote: “Interferon alpha 2B: The Cuban drug used in China against the coronavirus. We support the Chinese Government and people in their efforts to combat the coronavirus. “
According to concubines, interferon 2-beta may be effective as a treatment for SARS-CoV infections. (1)
It has been used in China “because it is a rapid means of reaching the lungs and acts in the early stage of infection.” Said Dr. Eduardo Martínez Díaz, president of BioCubaFarm.
Now, is there something special about Cuban interferon-alpha 2b?
Not really; various international pharmaceutical laboratories produce this drug. It has likely been used in China because its production in Cuba makes it less expensive than other parts of the world.
The cure or vaccine for the coronavirus is not yet ready. The WHO has stated that: At the moment, no specific medicine is recommended to prevent or treat infection by the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
The results of interferon-alpha 2b against the coronavirus are promising but preliminary.
- Interferon Alpha 2B is an antiviral, not a vaccine.
- This drug was used against COVID-19 in China as a treatment.
- Everything seems to indicate that if it is administered at the beginning of the infection or as a prevention drug, it has positive results. The results of its use in people with advanced diseases are not conclusive.
- More studies still need to be done to propose interferon-alpha 2b as a mass preventive treatment.