, Volume 7, Issue 3–4, pp 151–159 | Cite as

Cytokines in the treatment of virus infections

  • N. B. Finter


The interferon (IFN) system consists of both the formation of the various IFN proteins, and the diverse cellular responses which these induce: these result from the intracellular changes which follow their binding to a specific cell surface receptor.

There is only a single human gamma, omega and beta IFN; in contrast, there are 13 closely related chemical species (“subtypes”) of human alpha IFN, which are nevertheless chemically and biologically distinct.

IFN preparations made from mass cultured human cells or by using recombinant DNA techniques are now readily available for clinical use. IFN have a major role in the defence of the body against virus infections. In acute virus infections, preformed exogenous IFN cannot be given soon enough to be of value. However, IFN-α and IFN-β have proved of considerable value in some chronic virus infections, particularly chronic virus hepatitis and chronic papillomavirus infections. The doses routinely used are associated with both acute and chronic toxic side effects. Also, some patients form specific neutralising antibodies against the particular IFN preparation injected, which may abrogate all the benefits of the treatment. Nevertheless, IFN are now established as agents for use in routine medical practice.

Key words

Interferons IFN-α subtypes chronic virus infections hepatitis viruses papillomaviruses 



Tumour necrosis factor




The protein initiation factor


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. B. Finter
    • 1
  1. 1.SevenoaksUK

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