Although antivirals are probably essential for the treatment of SARS-CoV infection, the antiviral ribavirin (a conventional treatment for SARS) is not always effective. Jindrich Cinatl from Frankfurt University Medical School, Germany, and colleagues assessed the antiviral potential of recombinant interferons against two strains of the SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV) analysed in Frankfurt and Hong Kong. The investigators replicated the virus in two cell lines in a laboratory setting.
Interferon beta was effective in the two cell lines; interferon alpha effectively inhibited SARS-CoV replication, but with a sensitivity index 50-90 times lower than that for interferon beta. Interferon gamma was slightly better than interferon alpha in one of the cell lines, but was completely ineffective in the other cell line.
Jindrich Cinatl comments: "We showed that interferons inhibit SARS-CoV replication in vitro. Interferon beta was most potent, showing prophylactic protection and antiviral potential after infection. Interferon beta could be the drug of choice, alone or in combination with other antiviral drugs, in the treatment of SARS."