Antiviral treatment has been found to accelerate the recovery of patients with COVID-19, reveal new research.
The new study suggests that antivirals like interferons can "significantly reduce" inflammation in coronavirus sufferers – and accelerate their recovery.
Researchers who conducted an exploratory study in a group of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wuhan found that the use of interferon (IFN) – 2b decreased the time that the virus was detectable in the upper respiratory tract.
It also reduced the levels of two inflammatory proteins – interleukin (IL) -6 and C-reactive protein (CRP), according to results published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology.
The researchers believe their findings show potential for developing an effective antiviral treatment for COVID-19.
Lead author Eleanor Fish of the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute said: "Interferons are our first line of defense against any and all viruses – but viruses like the coronavirus co-evolved to specifically block an interferon response.
"This informs us of the importance of interferons for eliminating virus infections. Treatment with interferon will replace the inhibitory effects of the virus."
The team considered testing the treatment after demonstrating that interferons had therapeutic benefits in the SARS outbreak in 2002.
Dr. Fish said: "My group conducted a clinical study in Toronto to assess the therapeutic potential of IFN- against SARS.
"Our findings were that interferon treatment accelerated the resolution of lung abnormalities in patients treated with interferon compared to those not treated with interferon."
Researchers examined the course of the disease in a cohort of 77 patients with COVID-19 admitted to Union Hospital in Wuhan, China, between January 16 and February 20.
The evaluated individuals presented only moderate cases of COVID-19, and none of them required intensive care or intubation. IFN-2b treatment accelerated viral clearance by approximately one week.
Fish added: "Instead of developing a specific antiviral for each new virus outbreak, I would argue that we should consider interferons as the" first responders "in terms of treatment.
"Interferons have been approved for clinical use for many years, so the strategy would be to" redirect "them to serious acute virus infections.
"A clinical study with a larger cohort of infected patients, randomized to treatment with interferon-alpha or placebo, would further this research."