Interferon in MS and Hepatitis C

Interferon in MS and Hepatitis C

What is an interferon? Interferons are essential messengers of the natural immune system and prevent the spread of viral infections. Genetically engineered interferons have been crucial in treating hepatitis C and multiple sclerosis for several years. Interferons are endogenous proteins that belong to the group of cytokines. They play an essential role in the body’s natural immune defences and limit the spread of viral infections.

Effect of Interferon

A cell attacked by a virus releases interferon. The released interferon stimulates the body’s natural immune response and prevents the virus from spreading further. Interferons can be divided into subtypes that differ in chemical structure and are produced by different cell types.

The most prominent representatives are alpha interferon (α-IFN), beta interferon (β-IFN) and gamma interferon (γ-IFN).

With the help of genetic engineering, interferons can now be artificially produced and used to treat certain diseases. While alpha interferon is used in the treatment of hepatitis C and some tumour diseases, beta interferon is an essential component in the therapy of multiple sclerosis (MS). Since interferons stimulate the body’s immune response, interferon therapy is usually accompanied by severe side effects.


Alpha Interferon and Hepatitis C

Alpha interferon is widely used to treat acute and chronic hepatitis C. Infection with the hepatitis C virus causes severe inflammation of the liver. In many cases (about 50 – 80 per cent), the acute hepatitis C infection becomes chronic and can lead to significant liver damage in the long term.

In therapy with alpha interferon, the patient is given an injection under the skin (subcutaneously) at regular intervals – usually weekly. In addition, taking ribavirin, which has an antiviral effect, is required. Interferon treatment for hepatitis C lasts between 24 and 48 weeks. To ensure optimal therapy success, patients should avoid alcohol altogether during therapy.

Alpha interferon is also used to treat some cancers. The best successes have so far been achieved with renal cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma (black skin cancer ).

Beta Interferon and Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Beta interferon is mainly used to treat multiple sclerosis (MS). Multiple sclerosis is one of the most common neurological diseases of young adulthood. According to the German Multiple Sclerosis Society (DMSG), more than 250,000 people in Germany are currently suffering from MS. Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system (CNS) in which an essential protective layer of the nerve fibres, the so-called myelin sheaths, gradually degenerates. This disrupts the communication between nerve cells and leads to various neurological failures, usually occurring in spurts.

The symptoms of multiple sclerosis are very different and depend on which part of the nervous system is affected. Visual disturbances, tingling sensations, or dizziness can occur, for example. Since the disease is one of the autoimmune diseases, Betra-Interferon can be used very well for therapy to reduce the number and severity of flare-ups.


MS: Gamma Interferon Crucial?

In multiple sclerosis, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s cells. It is believed that gamma interferon plays a crucial role in triggering MS flare-ups. Beta interferon, on the other hand, is used to treat multiple sclerosis. It blocks the relapse-triggering effect of gamma interferon and dampens the inflammatory reactions in the CNS.

The therapy of MS with beta-interferon takes place through regular injections (several times a week). Various studies have shown that beta interferon reduces the frequency and severity of flare-ups.

Side effects of therapy with interferon

The most common side effects of interferon therapy are flu-like symptoms such as fever, joint pain and fatigue. In addition, interferon can have significant psychological side effects such as depression, aggressiveness, sleep disorders, fatigue and drive disorders. The side effects described are very similar for alpha and beta interferon and are a frequent reason for discontinuing interferon therapy.

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