UK study reports inhaled interferon-Beta reduces time to recovery from COVID-19

Simon Collins, HIV i-Base

On 20 July 2020, a UK study reported that an inhaled formulation of interferon-B was associated with some better outcomes against COVID-19, including the overall chance of recovery. [1]

Although not all outcomes were significantly improved, the study was important for including people who were not hospitalised, and for using a treatment that was easy to take at home.

This was in a double-blind, placebo-controlled phase 2 study that randomised 220 adults with confirmed COVID-19 (100 hospitalised, 120 still at home) to either inhaled interferon-Beta-1a (IFN-β1a) or a matching placebo. The primary endpoint was a change in symptoms measured over two weeks, measured on a standerd scale used to categorise COVID-19. [2]

So far, only limited top-line results are currently available from a company press release until the study is peer-reviewed and published in detail.

These include:

  • A 79% reduction in chance of developing severe COVID-19 (defined as needing ventilation or death) over 16 days. This was significant  with odds ratio (OR) 0.21 (95% CI: 0.04-0.97); p=0.046.
  • Being more than twice as likely to recover (defined as having no symptoms affecting daily life or evidence of viral infection). This was also significant with hazard radio (HR) 2.19 (95% CI: 1.03 to 4.69); p=0.043).
  • Significantly reduced breathlessness, p=007.
  • Three deaths were reported in the placebo group compared to none receiving IFN-β1a. This outcomes was not reported as being significant or not.
  • People with more severe COVID-19 who already needed oxygen at the start of the study (numbers not provided) returned home on average three days earlier (after six vs nine days). This difference was not statistically significant: HR 1.72 (95%CI: 0.91 to 3.25), p=0.096.
  • IFN-β1a was associated with a significantly higher chance of recovery by day 28: HR 2.60 (95%CI: 0.95 to 7.07), p=0.062.
  • Time with symptoms before entering the study was not limited to chance of recovery with IFN-β1a treatment.

The research was run in Southampton by Synairgen Research and the formulation of interferon-Beta has a development name SNG001.


Reporting from a press release is limited but these results are important for showing important benefits compared to placebo.

In addition to anti-inflammatory effect from interferon, IFN-β1a has shown in-vitro activity against MERS CoV, SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 with earlier phase 2 studies against asthma and that studies in COPD are also ongoing. [1, 3]

Two small earlier studies, both using different version of interferon (IFN-α-2b and IFN-α-1b) have also reported benefits in early stages of COVID-19. [4]


  1. Synairgen press release. COVID-19 – SG016 Clinical Trial Data Readout. (20 July 2020).
  2. A randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial to determine the safety and efficacy of inhaled SNG001 (IFNβ-1a for nebulisation) for the treatment of patients with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection (COVID-19). EudraCT number 2020-001023-14.
  3. Mantlo E et al. Antiviral activities of type 1 interferons to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Antiviral Res. 2020 Apr 29;179:104811.
  4. Treatment with interferon in early COVID-19. HTB (1 June 2020).

Links to other websites are current at date of posting but not maintained.