Low-Dose Interferon Type I Treatment Is Effective Against H5N1 and Swine-Origin H1N1 Influenza A Viruses In Vitro and In Vivo
The recent emergence of pandemic swine-origin influenza virus (H1N1) and the severe outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus of the H5N1 subtype leading to death in humans is a reminder that influenza remains a frightening foe throughout the world. Besides vaccination, there is an urgent need for new antiviral strategies to protect against influenza. The innate immune response to influenza viruses involves production of interferon alpha and beta (IFN-a/β), which plays a crucial role in virus clearance during the initial stage of infection. We examined the effect of IFN-a on the replication of H5N1 and H1N1 in vitro and in vivo. A single pretreatment with low-dose IFN-a reduced lung virus titers up to 1.4 log(10) pfu. The antiviral effect increased after multiple pretreatments. Low-dose IFN-a protected mice against lethal H5N1 viral infection. Further, IFN-a was also effective against H1N1 in vitro and in the mouse model. These results indicate that low-dose IFN-a treatment leads to the induction of antiviral cytokines that are involved in the reduction of influenza virus titers in the lung. Moreover, it might be possible that a medical application during pandemic outbreak could help contain fulminant infections.