Interferon Finally Investigated for COVID Treatment

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

interferon for COVID-19 treatment

Story at-a-glance -

  • Researchers are testing the use of interferon to treat SARS-CoV-2 after blood analyses revealed interferon levels were low in patients with severe disease
  • Your body uses interferon against many viral infections, but it’s not effective against SARS or MERS
  • One reason it may be successful against COVID-19 is the virus triggers a different pathway that activates a cytokine storm in some patients
  • You have other options for home treatment such as optimizing vitamin D levels and using quercetin and zinc after exposure or the first signs of illness

From the beginning, researchers and scientists have been scrambling to find answers to a multitude of questions that affect patients with SARS-CoV-2. Scientists want to know how the virus infects human cells, how it is spread and what might be done to effectively treat a population that does not respond consistently.

In other words, there are some people who are either asymptomatic or have a mild illness and others who develop significant disease and die from the virus. Experts are asking what causes one person’s immune system to go out of control and not others’?

Interferon Plays a Critical Role Controlling Cytokines

The body uses type 1 interferon in response to many viral infections.1 As scientists have gotten a clearer understanding of how the virus affects the human immune system early in the disease, they have begun to theorize that interferons may be able to counter the process and prevent the development of severe illness.2

Interferons are a family of proteins produced by the immune system. Human-type interferons have also been commercially produced using recombinant DNA for treatment against viral infections, some cancers and multiple sclerosis.3 The objective is to change the immune system’s response to bacteria, cancer and viruses.

Natural interferon regulates the action of genetic material that secretes cellular proteins affecting growth.4,5 The theory is that building a stronger immune system will result in directing a strong defense against the virus and alleviating the cytokine storm.

In the 1990s interferon was used to treat hepatitis C. However, the cure rate was 30% or less and the side effects were significant, including psychiatric issues, liver problems and depression that sometimes led to suicide.6 Other side effects included fever, muscle aches, headaches and other flu-like symptoms.7

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), calls interferon “the best soldiers, as it were, of the innate immune system."8

Several trials are currently underway to evaluate the effectiveness of interferon in patients with COVID-19. These trials are the result of studies demonstrating that individuals with the worst cases of coronavirus have the weakest interferon response.

People With Severe Disease Have Impaired Interferon Response

One team conducted an immune analysis on 50 patients who presented in various stages of the disease. They found that those with severe and critical illness had an impaired interferon type 1 response.9 Another group from New York's Mount Sinai Hospital reported similar results in the journal Cell after studying the virus in infected cells in the lab, humans and ferrets.10 Their data showed low levels of interferon types 1 and 3 were associated with higher levels of chemokines.

One team used immune cells from the blood of individuals who had severe disease. Using mass cytometry, they assessed the immune response in patients with confirmed disease.11

As reported in the Washington Post, when the immune cells were challenged with bacteria and viruses the normal reaction of producing defense of molecules, including interferons, did not occur.12

British company Synairgen published In a July 2020 press release, British company Synairgen suggested results from a randomized clinical trial using inhaled interferons could be used to reduce the potential risk of developing severe disease.13 While these results are promising, it's important to note that the trial was limited and the results have not yet been peer-reviewed or published.

One month later, the NIAID announced they were sponsoring a clinical trial to test interferon in hospitalized patients.14 Scientists are currently recruiting for the trial and hope to evaluate data from 1,000 patients across 100 hospitals worldwide.

The patients in the study will be getting remdesivir, the antiviral approved by the FDA in spring 2020. Fauci commented on the combination:

“What you’re likely going to see, as more antivirals come along and then the monoclonal antibodies come along, will be a propensity to treating as early as you possibly can to prevent people from getting into the hospital.”

New Trial Couples Interferon With Remdesivir

Researchers are seeking answers as to whether interferon will give added value to the antiviral agent remdesivir. However, not all scientists think there may be positive results. Marta Gaglia is a microbiologist at Tufts University. She spoke with a reporter from The Washington Post, saying, “In principle, you could think, why don’t we just give it to everybody who has a viral infection ever. But in reality, it has proven less effective than we would like.”15

The results from remdesivir studies have not been positive, either. For instance, in one study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the endpoint measurements were changed throughout the study.16 At the conclusion the single primary outcome measure was the number of days to recovery.17 All other criteria were moved to secondary outcome measurements.

This trial was also funded by the NIAID, which Fauci directs. Although the release generated enthusiasm, there were significant issues with the design and consequently the data, which I discussed in “The New COVID-19 Medication Isn't Backed by Results.”

A second study published in The Lancet concluded the drug was “not associated with statistically significant clinical benefits.”18 As the head of NIAID, Fauci has a vested interest in the development of the antiviral drug remdesivir. As it was, when he declared the results of the NEJM study to be “highly significant,”19 it suggests he should have also declared a conflict of interest in the use of the drug in the U.S.

When he was asked about the results of the study, which was stopped because of serious adverse events related to the drug, Fauci disregarded the evidence as “not adequate.”20 

Despite scientists' concerns over the veracity of the studies, the U.S. FDA issued an emergency use authorization for it May 1, 2020, which opened the door for compassionate use of the questionable drug.21

Retroviruses May Play a Role in COVID-19 Illness

One reason interferon may have a more positive result in the treatment of COVID-19 than they had with SARS or MERS is the potential that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is not completely responsible for the severe disease that affects a small percentage of the population.

In my interview with cellular and molecular biologist Judy Mikovits, Ph.D., she discusses the potential that the SARS-CoV-2 virus activates a retrovirus in the body. You can see the interview in my article, “Judy Mikovits Suggests Retroviruses Play a Role in COVID-19.”

The genetic code for a retrovirus is in ribonucleic acid (RNA), rather than in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The virus uses an enzyme, reverse transcriptase, to transform the single strand of RNA into a double strand of DNA.22 The enzyme is in the host cell where the virus replicates and then spreads throughout the body. As Mikovits describes, the key to health is to keep these viruses silent.23

She believes her data show that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is not the cause of COVID-19 but rather the catalyst to its expression, as it activates a dormant XMRV retrovirus found in some people. XMRV stands for “xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus.” Xenotrophic refers to viruses that only replicate in cells other than those of the host species.

So, XMRVs are viruses that infect human cells yet are not human viruses.24 In my interview with her, Mikovits describes how many of the current vaccines may be contaminated with this retrovirus.

As some vaccine viruses are grown in contaminated animal cell cultures, the retroviruses are then transferred to the genetic material of the vaccine virus. This may well explain the varying effect the virus has, creating severe disease in some and asymptomatic or mild illness in others.

Consider These Options to Reduce the Severity of Disease

In addition to hand-washing and maintaining overall health, there are further strategies to consider. These are approaches you can use to help reduce the risk you'll get sick or reduce the severity of the illness if you do get sick, without depending on prescribed medications.

As I've written before, optimizing your vitamin D level is probably the easiest, least expensive and most beneficial strategy you can use to minimize your risk of COVID-19 and other infections. Unfortunately, there's a pandemic of vitamin D deficiency across all age groups.25,26,27

The report I wrote on vitamin D and the prevention of COVID-19 is a resource to help you understand the importance of optimizing it for healthy immune function. Evidence continues to be published demonstrating that vitamin D levels are an independent indicator of the risk for infection and hospitalization.28

There are many health experts who are getting significantly positive results using hydroxychloroquine in combination with zinc and azithromycin.29 However, you have access to a similar combination at home using quercetin and zinc. Quercetin is a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory30 that also functions as a zinc ionophore.31

In other words, it helps zinc to enter the cells and stem the tide of viral replication. This works not only in lung tissue but also in endothelial cells, which affect symptoms outside the pulmonary system.32

Zinc deficiencies are commonly found in older adults and in those who are obese, have diabetes or atherosclerosis.33 Likely not by coincidence, these are some of the same populations who have a higher risk of severe disease.34

I recently interviewed Dr. David Brownstein, who has a clinic outside of Detroit. He has successfully treated more than 100 patients with COVID-19 using nebulized hydrogen peroxide. You can see the interview in “How Nebulized Peroxide Helps Against Respiratory Infections.”

I first wrote about using nebulized hydrogen peroxide in April 2020 and since then have received some impressive testimonials of its effectiveness from friends and acquaintances who got severely ill and used it. Brownstein was an early adopter of both vitamin D optimization and nebulized peroxide.

He's been using nebulized peroxide in the clinical setting for 25 years and with each revision of his protocol, his patients have appeared to fare better than those before them. For a couple of months, Brownstein posted some video interviews with his patients in which they told their story.

However, he removed them after receiving a warning letter from the Federal Trade Commission in which they stated that since there was no established prevention, treatment or cure for COVID-19, any mention thereof is in violation of FTC law.