Trends Immunol 2012 Apr 7;33(4):190-7. Epub 2012 Feb 7.
University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Interferons (IFNs)-α/β are critical effectors of the innate immune response to virus infections. Through activation of the IFN-α/β receptor (IFNAR), they induce expression of IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs) that encode antiviral proteins capable of suppressing viral replication and promoting viral clearance. Many highly pathogenic viruses have evolved mechanisms to evade an IFN response and the balance between the robustness of the host immune response and viral antagonistic mechanisms determines whether or not the virus is cleared. Here, we discuss IFNs as broad-spectrum antivirals for treatment of acute virus infections. In particular, they are useful for treatment of re-emerging virus infections, where direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) have limited utility due to DAA-resistant mutations, and for newly emerging virus strains in which the time to vaccine availability precludes vaccination at the onset of an outbreak.