Springer Seminars in Immunopathology

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 311–338 | Cite as

The role of interferon in viral infections

  • Gerald Sonnenfeld
  • Thomas C. Merigan


Interferon, a product of mammalian tissues, was originally described as an antiviral agent over twenty years ago. Only in the past few years has evidence started to accumulate that interferon actually played a role in vivo in natural virus infections.

Initially, evidence was accumulated showing that interferon could inhibit the replication of many viruses in vitro. The interferon, through induction of a second antiviral protein, could inhibit in vitro viral transcription or translation. Later, indirect evidence for an effect of interferon on in vivo viral infections was obtained by showing that (a) a temporal relationship existed between the appearance of interferon in viral infections and the progress of the infection and (b) treatment of virally infected animals with exogenous interferon or interferon inducer often resulted in less severe infections.

The most recent and direct evidence for a role for interferon in natural viral infections involves the use of an anti-interferon globulin. In several cases, injection of the anti-interferon globulin into animals infected with a wide variety of viruses resulted in a severely altered course of infection. These studies suggest that interferon is directly involved in the progress of viral infections. The involvement of the interferon in the viral infections could be a direct effect of the interferon on viral replication, or an interaction of the interferon with other host defenses, such as the immune system.


Internal Medicine Immune System Direct Effect Viral Infection Interferon 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerald Sonnenfeld
    • 1
  • Thomas C. Merigan
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of MedicineStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA

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