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Interferon: price, dosage, use (veterinarian's recommendations)


  • What is interferon?
  • How does interferon work?
  • Types of interferons
  • How is interferon obtained?
  • What diseases is interferon helpful for?
  • Dosing of interferon
  • What are the side effects of interferon use??
  • Interferon price

What is interferon?

By name interferon defines a group of proteins, produced and released by the cells of the body, as a response to the attack of viruses, parasites, cancer cells and bacteria, in a word - it is a defense mechanism against pathogens.

How does interferon work?

How does interferon work?

There are several different types of interferons, but they all share some common features. Above all, the condition of their action is the connection with a specific receptor. The receptor-interferon complex activates the tyrosine kinase, which together with them forms a transcription factor. As a result, the expression of genes responsible for the production of effector proteins is increased. The antiviral activity of interferons is based on:

  • impaired translation of viral mRNA,
  • blocking viral protein synthesis,
  • blocking the elongation of these proteins,
  • inhibiting the maturation of virions - in a word, they inhibit the multiplication of the virus in the body.

The interferons do not produce a direct antiviral effect, but rather an antiviral state. As a result, the cell in which these processes took place is insensitive to virus infection.

Antitumor activity of interferons consists in stimulating the synthesis of antigens characteristic of the tumor - tumor cells then become more recognizable and, as a result, may be more sensitive to the attack of immune mechanisms. Work on the use of this mechanism in medicine is still ongoing.

Other mechanisms of action of interferons include, for example, influencing the maturation of lymphocytes, influencing the maturation and activation of NK cells, macrophages. They enhance the expression of histocompatibility antigens and also affect the expression of cytokines.

Types of interferons

Type one interferons are alpha and beta interferons. Interferon alpha is produced by monocytes, macrophages and lymphocytes. There are at least 20 known subtypes of this interferon. Interferon beta is produced by fibroblasts. It is very similar to interferon alpha, it shows the effect of:

  • anti-proliferative,
  • antiviral,
  • immunomodulating.

The second type of interferon, or interferon gamma, is produced by T-lymphocytes. For its production to occur, lymphocytes must be in contact with the antigen or mitogen. It reduces the reproduction of the virus in cells, activates the cytotoxicity of macrophages.

Type three interferons, or lambda interferons, are similar to alpha and beta interferons, but also to interleukins 10. To function properly, they require the presence of type 2 transmembrane cytokine receptors. Work is currently underway to use lambda interferon to fight COVID-19.

How is interferon obtained?

Work on the production of interferon began in the 1970s. Kari Cantella isolated human leukocytes which he stimulated with Sendai virus. The obtained product was purified, thus obtaining a mixture of interferon alpha and beta. It was not an ideal method - the amount of interferon obtained was small, the availability of human leukocytes was quite limited, and the exact composition depended on the method of purification of the finished product and the stimulation mechanism. Currently, the production of interferon requires the use of recombinant DNA technology - it is cheap and efficient, and with its help is obtained interferon alpha, beta and gamma.

The interferon available in animal medicine is the omega interferon. It is similar to the first alpha interferon. It is produced using the methods available in genetic engineering, which I described above.

What diseases is interferon helpful for?

With which diseases interferon is helpful?

Interferon therapy should be considered when treating cats that are carriers of FeLV, specifically in the viral phase of this disease. Viremia occurs in the initial stage of the disease, when the virus is still present in the blood of the infected animal and can multiply in it. FeLV may lead to transient or permanent viremia. The use of interferon significantly extends the survival time of animals and improves their condition, especially in the first months of the disease. The survival time of treated and untreated animals settles out after about a year. Studies of interferon therapy for FeLV do not clarify whether drug action significantly limited viral replication or inhibited secondary health conditions. Interferon is best used in cats where FeLV causes severe immunosuppression and recurrent infections and infections - these cats are most likely to develop sustained viremia. It is not recommended for use in the presence of lymphoma, in anemic cats, in those who have FeLV induced neurological symptoms, and in those who did not develop any clinical symptoms of FeLV.

FIV infected cats can also receive interferon. A study by scientists from the University of Lisbon shows that the health of infected animals improves after treatment with interferon. It had no effect on the amount of the virus circulating in the body (it remained the same), but after its use, the level of interleukin 6, which is responsible for inflammation in the body, decreased significantly. Cats treated with interferon did much better than those treated with placebo.

Another condition in the course of which interferon administration may be considered is panleukopenia. Administration of interferon in the early stages of the disease significantly improves the clinical condition of animals, prevents the development of diarrhea and improves their well-being. Some veterinary doctors recommend prophylactic administration of interferon to young kittens who have not yet developed clinical symptoms and who have a high chance of developing panleukopenia (when one kitten in a litter becomes ill or when symptoms appear in the kittens' environment).

In dogs, interferon is also helpful in treating certain medical conditions. It is most often recommended to use it in the course of parvovirosis. The first element of the therapy is, of course, the administration of serum containing anti-paroviral antibodies, interferon can be used as part of an adjunct therapy, including fluid therapy, proper feeding of the animal, as well as antiemetic and gastrointestinal drugs.

Certain cancers are also the basis for the use of interferon in a dog. An example is T-cell epitheliotropic lymphoma. T-cell lymphoma can present with symptoms similar to scabies:

  • constant peeling,
  • itching,
  • reddening of the skin,
  • erythema,
  • seborrheic dermatitis.

Symptoms may also involve dermal-mucosal connections and appear pemphigus-like. However, lymphoma does not respond to dermatological treatment, despite the use of soothing and antiparasitic drugs, the changes persist and cause constant, severe itching. The diagnosis is made on the basis of the result of a histopathological and histochemical examination of a section of the skin covered by the neoplastic process. In the case of this disease, the drug of choice is lomustine - an anti-cancer drug that inhibits the multiplication of cancer cells, but this drug is highly hepatotoxic. The use of interferon may be an alternative to the use of lomustine, but with less effectiveness in action. You can read more about lymphomas in the article: // cowsiersciszczy.pl / chloniak-dog /.

Dosing of interferon

Dosing of interferon

Interferon should only be used under the supervision of a veterinarian and only in case of specific medical conditions.

The therapeutic dose of interferon is adjusted to the specific body weight, as with any veterinary medicine. Regarding the use of interferon in dogs, the dose is 2,500,000 units per kilogram of the animal's body weight. The preparation should be injected intravenously once a day for 3 consecutive days.

As for cats, the preparation should be administered by subcutaneous injection. As for dogs, the dose is adjusted to the specific body weight of the animal and is 1,000,000 units per kilogram body weight. The therapy usually lasts 5 days, but depending on the severity and well-being of the animal after the therapy, treatment with interferon may be repeated after two weeks and another time after two months.

What are the side effects of interferon use??

Any therapy can cause side effects - there is always a risk of side effects. There are also risks associated with the use of interferon.

After intravenous administration, cats may develop diarrhea, an increase in internal body temperature, the cat may be depressed and show significantly less desire to eat than usual. Animals that are hypersensitive to other medicinal products may collapse after intravenous administration of the drug.

Particular care should be taken with the use of interferon in animals suffering from chronic diseases - renal failure, liver failure, pancreatitis. After administration of interferon, the increased parameters should be controlled, the patient should also receive appropriate supplements, improving the work of organs that are not fully efficient.

Both in dogs and cats, changes in blood tests may occur after administration of interferon - first of all there may be a decrease in the number of platelets, erythrocytes and leukocytes. Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels may increase. For this reason, it is worth refraining from planned surgical procedures immediately after administration of interferon (a decrease in platelets may result in impaired blood clotting). These parameters should stabilize within a week of administration.

There are no studies that determine the safety of interferon use during pregnancy and lactation, therefore interferon should not be used in nursing mothers and pregnant women.

Vaccination should not be performed while taking interferon. For dogs, wait until clinical signs have resolved and vaccinate dogs for at least several days after complete recovery. Vaccination of cats treated with interferon for FeLV and FIV infection is not recommended as it causes immunosuppression. In the case of some vaccinations, their administration during interferon therapy may cause the development of adverse vaccine effects (including disease symptoms).

Side effects can also occur with interferon overdose, but are usually fairly mild. Administration of ten times overdose may cause symptoms such as:

  • increase in body temperature,
  • increased number of breaths,
  • increase in heart rate,
  • depression,
  • somnolence,
  • reluctance to move and be active,
  • vomiting,
  • diarrhea.

In the event of such effects, the physician who administered the preparation should be immediately informed about them. Management of an overdose usually focuses on the symptoms most bothersome for the animal.

Interferon price

Interferon is not a popular drug - it has quite a narrow application. There is one preparation on the Polish veterinary market, approved for use in dogs and cats, i.e Virbagen omega. This preparation is recommended for use in dogs with parvovirosis, and in cats infected with FeLV and FIV. The price of the preparation ranges from PLN 280 to PLN 350, depending on the wholesaler. The cost of the drug means that it is mainly used in cats. The dose in therapy is adjusted to the patient's body weight, and often one package of the preparation is insufficient for the entire therapy. As a result, treatment in larger dogs is usually very expensive.

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