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How does interferon work?

Can someone explain (simply and in layman terms) how the standard Tx works?

Thanks, Verdugo.
4 Responses
Avatar universal
Hi Verdugo.  The current hcv  treatment  consists of two drugs lovingly known as the "combo" treatment.  Additional drugs may be  prescribed to treat the side effects of these two drugs.  These are lovingly known as "rescue" drugs.

RIBAVIRIN  interferes with the ability of the virus to reproduce.  It has been around for a while and  works on other viruses too.  It is sometimes described as a "broad-spectrum" antiviral drug.

INTERFERON  is an chemical that our own immune cells make .  The interferon that we inject for tx is a semi-synthetic version of the same stuff - it amplifies our own immune reactions.  Several types of  interferon are used to treat other diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.  

So the current hepatitis C  combo treatment is two-pronged: it disrupts viral reproduction and boosts our own immune activity.  The new Vertex VX-950 drug that is still experimental is another of those that will interfere with virus replication.  

That's not much of an explanation, but it's a start.  Hopes this helps?


A couple links:



Avatar universal
Kit - do you know anything about the new drug vertex vx-950?  
Avatar universal
VX-950 is a protease inhibitor.  Protease inhibitors have been used in the treatment of AIDS, as a part of their 'chemical cocktail' in the their HIV virus.  Telaprevir (VX-850) is being investigated for the Hep C virus, with the hopes that in combination of Interferon, make give viral clearance to the HCV people.  That's what the research is all about.  Some of the groups are using Telaprevir + Interferon + Riba.   One group is using a placebo + Riba + Interf.  One group is using just the Telaprevir and Interferon.  Anyhow, I hope this helps.

Avatar universal
As I understand it, nobody knows exactly how Interferon or Ribavirin works towards viral erradication, only that they do.  Some recent studies have been performed to try and gain a better understanding, perhaps with the anticipation that in doing so might lead towards insights on how more effective tx and ultimately vaccination meds might be developed.

Conversely, the drugs currently being studied (both Protease and Polymerase) are better understood as to how they work to disrupt the RNA replication cycle of HCV.  However, as a virus which is highly reliant upon replication to sustain the infection, HCV is also turns out to be a highly mutable making it a resilient little bugger to eradicate.  Unfortunately, this also is appearing to make the new drugs being studied less effective as possible monotherapy medications, and from what I've seen only beneficial for a short while during the beginning of tx when used in conjunction with current SOC meds. (One reason I do not put a lot of stock or faith into their ability to increase the overall effectiveness of attaining SVR).  But the overall goal of the research driving these new meds seems to be two fold, 1) make tx for HCV kinder and gentlier, thus allow more folks who might otherwise have to stop a chance to strive for SVR, and 2) eventually find more effective means of eradicating HCV.

Personally, I believe IMHO that the latter may be driving public funding for the research as it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that while the rate of HCV infection seems to be dropping, the *true* number of those infected seems to be greatly under reported and as such may make it more of an epidemic than is being publically acknowledged.  I've also seen reports that infection rates, particularily amoung young people, may actually be on the increase again.

Recent advancements in HIV research has however provided some possible insights for a better understand of HCV, and possible even newer meds which may make vaccination and more effective eradication possible.  I believe that advancements in the HIV screening process has also made some breakthroughs which make it easier to discern if patients have co-infections which seems to be yielding that a larger number of them are co-infected with HCV.  Fortunately for us HCV patients, this seems to be sparking new research and efforts for more effective tx methods from the much larger reservoirs of funding for that disease.

Probably more than you wanted to hear and not enough of what you may have wanted to hear.
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