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The University of Southampton

New insights for the prevention of viral infections in lung diseases

Published: 15 November 2019

Southampton scientists have provided new insights into a potential treatment to prevent respiratory viral infections.

Respiratory infections lead to around 4 million deaths per year. A protein called Interferon beta (IFN-β) is key in defending against viral infections. However, patients with asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) have lower levels of IFN-β. Supplementing these patients with extra inhaled therapeutic IFN-β may help to prevent virally induced exacerbations.

Scientists, at the University of Southampton, in collaboration with AstraZeneca have shown that giving IFN-β to cells from human lung prior to, but not after infection, prevented viral infections.

Giving inhaled IFN-β as a treatment may, therefore, be effective at protecting at risk patients with asthma and COPD from viral infections.

These latest results published in American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine demonstrated that the anti-viral effect lasted for up to a week in macrophages.

Professor Tom Wilkinson, at the University of Southampton, who led the study said “These are early but very positive results. Respiratory infections are very common and can be very serious for people who have asthma or COPD. This work has provided important insights to aid the future design of clinical trials of IFN-β to prevent exacerbations in patients with asthma and COPD.”

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