J Interferon Cytokine Res. 2020 Sep;40(9):438-442. doi: 10.1089/jir.2020.0124.
A prospective observational study was conducted for assessing the therapeutic efficacy of interferon (IFN)-α2b in patients infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) during the first month after the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak began in Cuba. From March 11th to April 14th, 814 patients were confirmed SARS-CoV-2 positive in Cuba. Seven hundred sixty-one (93.4%) were treated with a combination of oral antivirals (lopinavir/ritonavir and chloroquine) with intramuscular administration of IFN-α2b (Heberon® Alpha R, Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Havana, Cuba), 3 times per week, for 2 weeks. Fifty-three patients received the approved COVID protocol without IFN treatment. The proportion of patients discharged from hospital (without clinical and radiological symptoms and nondetectable virus by real-time polymerase chain reaction) was higher in the IFN-treated compared with the non-IFN treated group (95.4% vs. 26.1%, P < 0.01). The case fatality rate (CFR) for all patients was 2.95%, and for those patients who received IFN-α2b the CFR was reduced to 0.92. Intensive care was required for 82 patients (10.1%), 42 (5.5%) had been treated with IFN. This report provides preliminary evidence for the therapeutic effectiveness of IFN-α2b for COVID-19 and suggests that the use of Heberon Alpha R may contribute to complete recovery of patients.