Effect of a genetically engineered interferon-alpha versus traditional interferon-alpha in the treatment of moderate-to-severe COVID-19: a randomised clinical trial

Ann Med. 2021 Dec;53(1):391-401. doi: 10.1080/07853890.2021.1890329.

Abstract

Background: There are few effective therapies for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) upon the outbreak of the pandemic. To compare the effectiveness of a novel genetically engineered recombinant super-compound interferon (rSIFN-co) with traditional interferon-alpha added to baseline antiviral agents (lopinavir-ritonavir or umifenovir) for the treatment of moderate-to-severe COVID-19.

Method: In this multicenter randomized (1:1) trial, patients hospitalized with moderate-to-severe COVID-19 received either rSIFN-co nebulization or interferon-alpha nebulization added to baseline antiviral agents for no more than 28 days. The primary endpoint was the time to clinical improvement. Secondary endpoints included the overall rate of clinical improvement assessed on day 28, the time to radiological improvement and virus nucleic acid negative conversion.

Results: A total of 94 patients were included in the safety set (46 patients assigned to rSIFN-co group, 48 to interferon-alpha group). The time to clinical improvement was 11.5 days versus 14.0 days (95% CI 1.10 to 2.81, p = .019); the overall rate of clinical improvement on day 28 was 93.5% versus 77.1% (difference, 16.4%; 95% CI 3% to 30%); the time to radiological improvement was 8.0 days versus 10.0 days (p = .002), the time to virus nucleic acid negative conversion was 7.0 days versus 10.0 days (p = .018) in the rSIFN-co and interferon alpha arms, respectively. Adverse events were balanced with no deaths among groups.

Conclusions and relevance: rSIFN-co was associated with a shorter time of clinical improvement than traditional interferon-alpha in the treatment of moderate-to-severe COVID-19 when combined with baseline antiviral agents. rSIFN-co therapy alone or combined with other antiviral therapy is worth to be further studied.Key messagesThere are few effective therapies for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) upon the outbreak of the pandemic. Interferon alphas, by inducing both innate and adaptive immune responses, have shown clinical efficacy in treating severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus.In this multicenter, head-to-head, randomized, clinical trial which included 94 participants with moderate-to-severe COVID-19, the rSIFN-co plus antiviral agents (lopinavir-ritonavir or umifenovir) was associated with a shorter time of clinical improvement than interferon-alpha plus antiviral agents.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; interferon-alpha; recombinant super-compound interferon; treatment.

Publication types

  • Letter
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • COVID-19 / diet therapy*
  • COVID-19 / drug therapy*
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interferon beta-1b / therapeutic use*
  • Interferon-alpha / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome

Substances

  • Antiviral Agents
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Interferon beta-1b
  • interferon alfacon-1

Supplementary concepts

  • COVID-19 drug treatment

Grant support

This work was supported by the New Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Emergency Project of Sichuan University (No. 2020scunCoVEmergency10001) and the Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia Epidemic Research Project in West China Hospital, Sichuan University (No. HX-2019-nCoV016).