Interferon shows some benefit in preventing AIDS-related opportunistic infections

Treatment with recombinant human interferon-gamma (rIFN-gamma) tends to reduce the number of opportunistic infections and increase survival in patients with advanced HIV disease.

In a study reported in the June 10th issue of AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses, Dr. Lynn A. Riddell, from Barts and the London NHS Trust, and colleagues randomised 84 patients with advanced HIV disease to received thrice weekly rIFN-gamma treatments or placebo for 48 weeks.

The researchers found that rIFN-gamma-treated patients tended to develop fewer opportunistic infections than placebo-treated patients. The immune therapy was particularly effective in reducing the incidence of Candida, herpes simplex, and cytomegalovirus infections. A nonsignificant improvement in survival was also noted with rIFN-gamma treatment.

While several side effects such as headache, fatigue, and rigors were linked to rIFN-gamma therapy, they were reversible, the investigators state. In addition, the immune therapy did not seem to promote HIV activation.

“IFN-gamma has been shown to protect monocytes from HIV infection, down-regulates CD4 on lymphocytes, potentially reducing infectability, and inhibits HIV replication by inducing a defective particle maturation,” the authors point out. “These mechanisms may counteract others that increase HIV replication.”

Dr. Riddell’s team believes that although the treatment differences failed to reach statistical significance, they do warrant consideration of further rIFN-gamma trials.


AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses 2001;17:789-797.

Source: Reuters Health

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