What is interferon

InterferonsDrug groupsTherapeutic Proteins Interferons are active ingredients from the group of recombinant therapeutic proteins with antiviral, antitumoral and immunomodulating properties. These are the body's own cytokines that are produced using biotechnological methods. Interferons are used in diseases of the immune system such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, and infectious diseases. They are usually injected subcutaneously. Typical adverse effects are reactions at the injection site and flu-like symptoms such as chills, fever, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain.

synonymous: IFN


Interferons are only available as injection preparations, for example in the form of pre-filled syringes. They are stored in the refrigerator at 2 to 8 ° C. The body's own cytokines were discovered in the 1950s.

Structure and properties

Interferons are proteins with a molecular weight between 15 and 21 kDa. Today they are manufactured using biotechnological methods. There are several types, including the alpha, beta, and gamma interferons:

  • IFN-α (leukocytes)
  • IFN-β (fibroblasts)
  • IFN-γ (lymphocytes)

Pegylated interferons are linked to a PEG chain and have a longer duration of action.


Interferons (ATC L03AB) have antiviral, antitumoral (antiproliferative), antiangiogenic and immunomodulating properties. These are the body's own proteins that are produced by the immune system, among other things, in response to a virus infection. Interferons bind to interferon receptors on the cell surface and, among other things, influence gene expression and activate antiviral enzymes. The half-life of non-pegylated active ingredients is in the range of a few hours. Peginterferons, on the other hand, have a longer half-life, for example 40 to 80 hours.


The fields of application for the interferons are shown below. Not all representatives are approved for all indications:

Immune system disorders:


Infectious Diseases:


According to the specialist information. The medicines are usually injected subcutaneously. For the symptomatic treatment of flu-like side effects, paracetmol can be administered.

Active ingredientsContraindications

Contraindications include:

  • Hypersensitivity
  • Psychiatric illnesses, major depression
  • Severe liver dysfunction
  • Renal dysfunction
  • Pregnancy, breastfeeding (depending on the active ingredient)

The complete precautionary measures can be found in the medicinal product information sheet.


Interferons can affect the activity of the CYP450 isoenzymes.

unwanted effects

The most common possible adverse effects include (selection):

see also

Therapeutic proteins

  • Pharmaceutical product information (CH, USA)
  • Clanet M., Cucheratt M. Interferons in relapsing remitting MS: a systematic review comments on a meta-analysis. Int MS J, 2003, 10 (4), 134-5 Pubmed
  • European Pharmacopoeia PhEur
  • Foster G.R. Review article: pegylated interferons: chemical and clinical differences. Aliment Pharmacol Ther, 2004, 20 (8), 825-30 Pubmed
  • Ghosh D, Ghosh D, Parida P. Physiological Proteins in Therapeutics: A Current Review on Interferons. Mini Rev Med Chem, 2016, 16 (12), 947-52 Pubmed

Conflicts of Interest: None / Independent. The author has no relationships with the manufacturers and is not involved in the sale of the products mentioned.

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This article was last changed on 8/13/2020.
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