Immune interferon in the circulation of patients with autoimmune disease

N Engl J Med. 1979 Jul 5;301(1):5-8. doi: 10.1056/NEJM197907053010102.


The observation that type II, or immune, interferon could be produced by peripheral-blood leukocytes in vitro on an immune-specific basis suggested that it also might be produced in vivo in various autoimmune disorders. We found immune interferon in the serums of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma and Sjögren's syndrome. Among 28 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, 71 per cent of those with active and 21 per cent of those with inactive disease showed interferon in their serums. Serial serum samples showed a good correlation between interferon titers and disease activity. Moreover, interferon titers correlated positively with antibodies to DNA and negatively with serum levels of the third component of complement. It is possible that the production of interferon may contribute to immunologic aberrations in auto-immune diseases and also protect the already compromised host from viral infections.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology
  • Autoantibodies / analysis
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Complement C3 / analysis
  • DNA / immunology
  • Humans
  • Interferons / blood
  • Interferons / immunology*
  • Leukocytes / immunology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology
  • Middle Aged
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / immunology
  • Sjogren's Syndrome / immunology


  • Autoantibodies
  • Complement C3
  • DNA
  • Interferons